Attending a bowl game is expensive

Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 4.

Like real-estate, prices for tickets to the College Football Playoff National Championship game are all about location.

The 2017 championship game between Alabama and Clemson is the priciest yet, with the average ticket price of $2,195 being over three times more expensive than tickets for last year's game.

That undoubtedly has to do with the quality of the teams, which have been the best in college football for two years, and the fact that the game is a rematch of last year's high-scoring, title game, which was in doubt until late in the fourth quarter. Alabama won 45-40.

But it may also have to do with the proximity of Tampa's Raymond James stadium, which is a mere 583-mile average from both Clemson, S.C. and Tuscaloosa, Ala. The average travel distance from the two schools to last year's site, Glendale, Ariz., was about 2,000 miles. 

In the 2015 championship game, Alabama faced off against LSU. That year, the two teams had an average travel distance of 187 miles to the Louisiana Super Dome. LSU fans were sorely disappointed as Alabama's formidable defense shut out the Tigers 21-0. LSU's offense crossed the 50-year line only once.

Without the need for a flight, the only other major expense this year for fans will be a hotel. On Priceline.com, there are two-star hotel express deals near Raymond James stadium for under $100 a night, which is the cheapest option by almost $30.

Chart by TicketIQ (Note: Prices cover championship games prior to the current playoff format).

Currently, the cheapest ticket available is $900, which is good for a 300-level ticket on the Alabama side of the stadium. The equivalent ticket on the Clemson side is almost $200 more, which suggests that Clemson fans are hungrier than Alabama fans. The 300 section is in the upper deck. Prices overall are up 15% since the semi-final games.

TicketIQ aggregates more than 90% of the secondary market, including College Football Playoff tickets from Ticketmaster.

Alabama fans have gotten used to winning under present head coach Nick Saban and finished undefeated. The team went 14-1 in winning last year's title. 

Moreover, with 16 National Championships, Alabama is the most successful program in college football history.

On the other hand, Clemson, has only one national title, which came in 1981, after it defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 22-15.

Unlike the current format, however, their Orange Bowl win didn't come with post-game confetti and a trophy to hoist. In the pre-playoff era, teams had to wait for the AP and UPI polls to come out the following week.

In the 35 years since their Orange Bowl victory, the pomp and circumstance of winning a national championship has reached professional levels. There is a more than a one-week build-up to the current championship game. 

Accordingly, prices have risen.

For the 1982 Orange bowl, the face price for a ticket was $15. This year, the cheapest face price for a ticket is $500.

The secondary market has almost doubled those prices.

It is the third year of the college football playoffs, which was created to provide a more satisfying end to the college football season. Prior to the playoffs, the NCAA, the governing body of college sports, tried to match the top two years in a bowl game that served as a de facto national title game. But there was often controversy about which teams were chosen at the expense of others that may have been equally deserving.

To be sure, the college football playoffs have not been perfect. This year, a selection committee chose Ohio State over a surging Penn State as one of the four playoff teams.

But proponents of the playoffs say that the structure has created opportunities for more worthy teams.

For Clemson Tiger fans, the quest for a first title in nearly two generations is an opportunity not to be missed, especially with the prospect that the team's star Junior quarterback Deshaun Watson could bolt for the NFL draft after next week's game. Clemson has a 13-1 record, with the only loss to ACC rival Pitt by one point in early November.

Alabama coach Nick Saban will be looking for his fifth championship at Alabama. That is just one behind the famed, late Bear Bryant, who won six with the Crimson Tide in the 1960s and 1970s. 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor.