He drove to New Orleans without a ticket when Alabama played Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl and wound up watching the game at a hotel bar. He has gone to Tuscaloosa many times without a ticket and wound up through the gates of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Second-ranked Alabama (8-0) is set to play host to No. 1 LSU (8-0) Saturday in what college football pundits are billing as the game of the century, but Shears isn’t so sure about risking the drive to Tuscaloosa without a ticket. He knows just how hard to get and expensive a proposition that might be.
“I’d hate to get there and not get in then have to drive back and possibly miss the first half,” the Ohatchee native and Oxford resident said.
The week of the unofficial SEC and national championship is here, and the ticket haves and have–nots are wrestling with such decisions.
The have-nots must weigh price and availability for tickets and just how far they’d go to get them.
The haves must weigh what they could make by selling them, and the unwillingness some have expressed to sell just underscores the dilemma of the have-nots.
As of Sunday night, tickets for the upper bowl of Bryant-Denny, which have a face value of $70 each, started at $363 on StubHub.com. The highest-priced ticket listed on the site goes for $10,423.14, and that’s for a seat in the north end zone, lower level.
“As far as a regular-season game, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Shears, co-owner of Moore Printing in Anniston. “Even in Tuscaloosa, where they’ve expanded (Bryant-Denny) to 101,000 (seats), it’s still probably the hardest ticket for a regular-season game that Alabama ever had.”
Indeed, the circumstances are far from normal.
Pundits have circled the game since preseason, and nine weeks of regular-season play have done nothing but validate Alabama and LSU as the nation’s top two teams.
Saturday’s game marks the first regular-season battle between the two top-ranked teams since Ohio State beat Michigan 42-39 in 2006. The LSU-Alabama game also marks the first No. 1-vs.-No. 2 clash following an open date since Oklahoma-Nebraska in 1971.
The extra time has only added to the hype factor.
Also, the World Series ended Friday and a labor dispute has sidelined the NBA. College football will be the only game in town Saturday, and LSU-Alabama is the season’s most anticipated showdown.
What would people pay to be at the epicenter of sports, especially in a state that counts college football as a centerpiece of its culture? What would people take for tickets?
“I know for a fact of two people who sold their tickets, and one sold them for a thousand dollars a pair and another sold them for twelve-hundred for a pair,” Shears said. “And I know a guy who this morning said he was offered a thousand dollars apiece for four tickets, and he said no, he wasn’t going to take it.
“… You wonder, what is a 3 1/2-hour game worth to be there in the stands versus the money in your pocket in tough economic times? A person could literally sell two tickets to the LSU game and pay for the season tickets that they bought.”
But good luck finding Alabama fans who feel pragmatic about their tickets to this year’s LSU game. As it was when the Crimson Tide played Texas for the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title in Pasadena, Calif., fans weigh the once-in-a-lifetime experience against monetary pragmatism.
“I just can’t sell them,” said Ohatchee’s Ron Dover, owner of Ron’s Bar-B-Q.
Dover has two season tickets and has attended Alabama games for nearly 20 years. He pays $300 a month to keep his camper parked in Tuscaloosa, which beats paying nearly $300 per game in gas and other costs to travel back and forth.
But sell his tickets to the LSU game?
“We’ve had big games, and we’ll always have big games, but I guess this one is as good and or big as I’ve been able to attend,” he said. “This is like a national championship game coming up.”
Then again, there are those who give them away within their circle of business associates and close friends.
Phillip Webb, of Webb Concrete & Building Supply in Oxford, has long held 12 season tickets and gets extras from vendors. He currently has six extras earmarked for a close group of close friends, customers and employees.
“I’ve got a waiting list for more than I’ll have,” he said. “They’re all people I’d love to help out and give to, but I won’t have enough for the list.
“I’ll certainly keep trying this week to come up with a few more, but I don’t know that that will happen. … We don’t have many games like Alabama-LSU this year.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.