The Big Ten Championship game is not pulling the ticket sales that many had hoped, well at least not as much as the scalpers had hoped. It’s not the schools faults necessarily, Michigan State has sold their allotment of 15,000 and Wisconsin has come close with 13,000 of their own. But that is only a handful of the available seats in the 66,000 seat stadium. As a result, the secondary market is flooded, with sites like StubHub boasting over 9,000 tickets available, some going as low as $9.
Outside of the SEC (Whose lowest ticket price sits about $120), conference championship games have always been hit or miss when it comes to filing the stands. The Big 12 struggled to sell out several times despite usually hosting traditional powers annually. The ACC is most commonly mocked for their arial shot a crowd of around 15,000, engulfed in the teal seats that make up Everbank Field. The MAC, surprisingly, has been a decent draw in Detroit given the fact that they are the MAC and draw flies at their own stadiums.
Other smaller conferences have resorted to holding their games at the team with the best record’s venue. It assures that one local fanbase is there to scoop up tickets. Fearing ACC-like conditions the Pac-12 elected to go this route, hosting the game at Oregon. While it is sold out, ticket prices on the secondary market (lowest seats going around $18) are well below face value for what should be a scrimmage. Houston is hosting the Conference USA Championship which sold out earlier this week and currently lists their cheapest seats for $69 on StubHub. The Cougars are playing for their first BCS berth.
So people ask, why host these games? It seems like more work than necessary. The simple answer is, TV. For whatever reason, the execs love them and will pay accordingly. They don’t really care if 10,000 people show up for the game, so long as people tune in, and in this football crazy world, they do. The Big Ten signed a deal with Fox, who is paying then $24 million a year for the game rights through 2016. Hard to say no to that kind of money, which is why the Big 12 will expand again…and the Big East…and why Conference USA and Mountain West worked out their pact.
Conference Championship games here to stay, no matter how many seats are filled.