SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The first half of the Clemson-Alabama national title game featured a frenzied pace, with one huge play after another. The action outside Levi’s Stadium hours earlier was almost as frenetic.
Though the College Football Playoff championship game was technically a sellout, countless fans showed up without a ticket, knowing prices had dropped markedly and they had a chance to land a bargain.
Sharon Ramsey was among those who scored big. The Clemson alumnus bought a plane ticket from her hometown of San Antonio months ago, betting big the Tigers would reach their third CFP final in four years. But it wasn’t until three hours before game time that she purchased her ticket through a Clemson posting board, paying $300, or less than half the face value of $775.
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“I have friends who went to the game in Arizona a couple of years ago (in 2016),’’ she said of the matchup between these same teams. “They flew out at the last minute and didn’t get tickets till game day and they paid a couple of hundred dollars, so I kind of had a historical perspective on games out here on the West Coast.’’
As opposed to last year in Atlanta, where some tickets for the Alabama-Georgia title game were going for upward of $2,000 on the resale market, the familiarity of the opponents – now clashing for the fourth consecutive year in the playoff, third time for the crown – and the distance from their home bases conspired to depress the market.
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Crimson Tide fan Christopher Garner, originally from Huntsville, Alabama, flew in from Seattle on Monday afternoon and was still looking for the right price a little over an hour before game time.
His friend Patrick Tabbs had bought his ticket for $270, more than $200 below the lowest face value cost of $475.
“It’s like playing a game of chicken,’’ Garner said. “‘Who’s going to break first?’’’
Not everybody got a great deal. Bill Wolfe, a Clemson alumnus from Chapin, South Carolina, committed to buying three tickets from a friend at $775, then watched them plummet in value.
Still, the business manager figured he’d make the most of the experience with his two sons in their 20s, both rabid fans as well.
“I kind of got stuck. I promised the guy I’d buy them,’’ said Wolfe, who checked out San Francisco and its surroundings with his sons before heading south for the game. “It’s no big deal. We’re here for the memories.’’
Chris Phillips was hoping his memories would include a national championship on his 48th birthday. He and friend Charles Breeden, 46, hail from Fort Payne, Alabama, but now live in Nashville and Albuquerque, respectively.
It wasn’t until the weekend that they decided to travel to Northern California to root for the Crimson Tide. Two hours before the game, they each shelled out $415 plus fees for club-level tickets.
“They fluctuated up and down,’’ Breeden said. “There were times when they were cheaper, then they went up and down like a roller coaster. They were really high about a week ago and then started dropping. They got more reasonable, so that’s why I called him and said, ‘Prices are dropping,’ so we decided to pull the pin. We’ve been glued to the computer since watching the prices.’’
Once they got it, the longtime friends could feel like they got their money’s worth, even with the favored Tide trailing at the half.