Colleges earn the most when these football opponents come to town...

Published: July 26, 2016 

A visit from Notre Dame can nearly double ticket prices


Sometimes home-field advantage amounts to more than the benefit of playing on a familiar field, in front of rabid home fans.

College football programs with long histories of success can increase the value of their opponent’s tickets on the secondary market when playing on the road. Visits from such storied teams such as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State can increase ticket prices by 96%, 68% and 67%, respectively, according to an analysis of ticket prices for the coming season by secondary ticketing website SeatGeek.

Demand is driven by a team’s overall reputation rather than its record alone, says Chris Leyden, a content analyst at SeatGeek. “These teams do well on their name and have a big alumni base,” Leyden says. “Schools like Penn State and Texas have that kind of brand clout.”

The amount by which secondary-market ticket prices rise also depends on the quality of the home team, says Ryan Brewer, a finance professor at Indiana University–Purdue University Columbus. “If Notre Dame is going to play in some tiny town, that’s going to drive interest in that game more than a normal game,” Brewer says. “If they’re playing at Ohio State, tickets are going to sell out anyway, and it isn’t going to affect prices.”


Schools like Ohio State and Michigan with large stadiums and active alumni bases regularly see high ticket demand and attendance. For the coming season, average ticket resale prices to Ohio State and Michigan home games are $198 and $171, respectively, according to secondary ticketing website TiqIQ. Face value for these tickets range from $70 to $195 for Ohio State and $65 to $130 for Michigan. Those two schools, Big 10 archrivals, also had the highest average attendance figures for the 2015 season, with Michigan Stadium drawing about 110,000 fans a game and Ohio Stadium packing in about 107,000, according to NCAA data.

The emphasis on legacy teams — programs that have had a strong presence in college football for decades — has made prices for good teams with less historical success more affordable. Teams like Northwestern, Mississippi State and Utah that have posted high winning records in recent seasons but haven’t “broken through with brand identity” drive down prices at away games by 23%, 21% and 17%, respectively, Leyden says.

These trends may be beneficial for fans who aren’t tied to the historical programs but “just want to see good football,” he adds.

Legacy teams are more appealing to consumers who aren’t students or alumni because when they show promise at the beginning of the season, there is a higher potential it will continue through the year based on past success, Brewer says. “A legacy team is like a balloon filled with more helium,” he says. “Historically good programs are going to have more buoyancy.”

While the list of ticket-demand drivers remains relatively static, according to the SeatGeek data, Brewer says it is possible for teams that aren’t considered legacy programs to break into that group if they maintain a winning record over a significant period. “It’s one of the things that makes sports amazing,” he says. “It takes consistent effort, but of course it is possible.”

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