The four best days of the year for a sports fan — what traditionalists still view as the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, even if they are now officially the second and third rounds in the expanded 68-team field — got even better this year, when the NCAA’s new television deal ensured every game would be shown in its entirety on either CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV.
The first real weekend of the NCAA Tournament — which got underway in classic fashion this afternoon, Thursday, March 17, with three last-second finishes among the first four games — can be a good one for ticket brokers, too. Though, for a variety of reasons, it is not quite on the scale of other major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series.
Hundreds of thousands of seats will be filled this weekend at eight arenas nationwide, but relatively few of those tickets are available. According to TheStreet.com, only 30 percent of NCAA Tournament tickets are sold to the public. The rest are distributed to the schools, the host cities and the NCAA staff and its corporate sponsors.
In addition, the NCAA strongly discourages fans from purchasing tickets from anyone other than the host or participating schools, the NCAA’s official website or PrimeSport, the NCAA’s hospitality partner — even though, according to TheStreet.com, StubHub.com is the official ticket reseller of 22 NCAA Tournament teams.
While the NCAA declares that those who buy tickets from unaffiliated sellers could be subjected to “government regulations, ordinances or laws, and possible prosecution,” Notre Dame — one of those schools which has a contract with StubHub.com — goes a step further. Any Fighting Irish season ticket holder who sells his NCAA Tournament tickets for more than face value, to a ticket broker who sells them for more than face value or sells his tickets as part of a travel package will have his tickets taken away for five years.
The NCAA can also help or hurt brokers with the placement of the teams in each of the eight sub-regionals, or, as they are commonly called, “pods.” If there are local teams in a pod, the prices will likely be higher on the secondary market than if a pod serves as a true neutral site.
For instance, the Charlotte pod this weekend features both Duke and North Carolina, each of whom have rabid fan bases that will travel anywhere to see the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, never mind an in-state destination. According to figures provided by StubHub.com to Forbes.com, the average ticket price to a set of games at the Charlotte pod as of Friday, March 11 was $108, the second-cheapest price behind only Tampa. But with Duke and North Carolina — as well as Georgia and Tennessee — in the pod, those prices soared to $226 as of Wednesday, March 16, just shy of the average second- and third-round resale price of $228.
The most expensive pod, as of Wednesday, was Tulsa ($259), where Big XII rivals Kansas and Texas were placed along with perennial NCAA Tournament teams Arizona and Illinois. The pod that experienced the smallest price increase between March 11 and March 16 was Denver, which hosted the battle of Kentucky this afternoon between Morehead State and Louisville before similarly far-flung Vanderbilt and Richmond battled in the second game.
However, the local team theory doesn’t always apply: The least-expensive pod was Tampa ($196), which featured Florida as well as West Virginia, Clemson and Kentucky.