Duck fans happy to pay the price

By Mark Baker | Living Here, Sports | |

Jill Carter does not claim to be clairvoyant.

But she is a supremely confident fan of University of Oregon football.

When did she book hotel rooms for last week’s Rose Bowl football game between her beloved Ducks and Florida State?

Last year – as in last January.

And for Monday’s inaugural College Football Playoff championship game in Arlington, Texas, between Oregon and Ohio State University, at a reasonable $110 or so a night at a Residence Inn in Fort Worth? In July.

Also, back in October, she booked airfare ($824 for two tickets) on Southwest Airlines from Portland to Dallas on Saturday, for her and her husband, Marl Carter.

That the Ducks would need to go all season with just one loss and qualify for the Pac-12 championship game and win it and then be selected for college football’s first-ever final four? Mere details. The Carters say they weren’t too worried, not with Marcus Mariota leading the way.

Besides, they could always cancel the hotel reservations and use the flights for another trip.

That’s the planning, faith and dollars it takes to get relatively budget-priced deals to watch the Ducks play in a Rose Bowl and in a national championship game 11 days later.

“You sacrifice something to live a passion,” says Jill, a retired Eugene elementary school teacher and 1968 UO graduate, sitting with her husband in the living room of their Coburg home.

“It won’t always be there,” Marl says of the Ducks’ chance to win a national football title.

The financial sacrifice this season was attending only one UO away game, at Levi’s Stadium against the University of California Bears on Oct. 24. In past years, they’ve attended most away games.

“We decided that if we’re going to do it (Rose Bowl and national championship), we have to be frugal,” says Marl, a 1970 UO graduate and a 40-year employee of the former Staff Jennings Boating Center in Eugene, from which he retired in 2010.

The couple estimates that their combined costs for attending both games, including game tickets, is about $4,200. And that’s after a separate annual $4,500 donation to the Duck Athletic Fund that positioned them to be eligible to buy playoff tickets.

Universities get the money

But many Oregon football fans cannot afford to attend both a Rose Bowl game and a national championship game in the same season, let alone less than two weeks apart.

These are the most expensive tickets in the history of college football, and that’s on top of airfare, hotel, meals and other costs.

Oregon and Ohio State were each allotted 20,000 tickets to sell to season-ticket holders for the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington.

The price fans pay for those tickets: $450 or $650 (based on a priority system for the season-¬≠ticket holder’s amount of annual donation and how long one has been a season-ticket holder), plus a $20 handling fee tacked on by the universities.

Thus, the Carters paid $1,340 ($670 each) for their two 20-yard-line tickets to Monday’s game.

Many who are able to buy tickets at those face-value prices turn around and sell them on the secondary ticket market for much more.

On StubHub, the top online secondary ticket marketplace, prices on Wednesday ranged from $473.25 for a ticket in the uppermost part of the stadium to $7,610 for a “Mezzanine Prime South” seat.

Want a suite for the game for you and all of your friends? Those go for $30,126 to $240,000, the latter a “Touchdown Suite” in the east endzone.

The ticket prices this year “are a little more than last year ($325 and $385 at the 2014 BCS Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn) and way less than the Super Bowl (about $2,000 on average),” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, the conferences-¬≠controlled entity organizing the playoffs.

College Football Playoff is the successor to the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS.

Proceeds of ticket sales go to the College Football Playoff, confirmed Craig Pintens, the UO’s senior associate athletic director for marketing and public relations.

The money eventually is distributed to participating conference universities, including the UO.

“It’s been very good for everybody,” Hancock said of the inaugural football playoff. “We’re delighted. There will be more fans at this game who are passionate about one of those teams than at any other sporting event. I’m really proud of that, that the tickets get into the hands of people who really care.”

“I don’t want to know”

Shirley Burrus wants to be there. And she will be.

The Creswell Middle School principal attended the Rose Bowl with her sons and their wives and is headed to the Dallas area this weekend.

“It’s hard to do both these trips,” she said.

She’ll use personal leave days on Monday and Tuesday to attend the game, she said.

She’ll attend Monday’s game with her son David Burrus and his wife, Elise.

Shirley Burrus has not added up the cost of both trips. “No, I don’t want to know,” she said with a laugh.

As a longtime season-ticket holder, Burrus ordered her tickets through the UO at the face value price and believes they were the $450 tickets (plus the $20 handling fee).

“We love the Ducks, and it’s what we do. I’ve been to a lot of bowl games, and it’s just fun,” she said.

Many Oregon football season-ticket holders who have bought those spendy tickets to Monday’s historic game may now wonder whether to turn around and sell them for a tidy, tax-free profit.

“Probably could sell them,” said Duck fan Larry Newby of Eugene, who already is in Arlington, where his daughter, Amber Patterson, a 2000 Sheldon High School and 2004 UO graduate, now lives. “But no deal. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal we’ve got going.”