November 19, 2008
With the Mountain West championship, Utah's pending BCS bid and the usual factions, bragging rights and petty bets of rivalry week all on the line, it's safe to call Saturday's BYU-Utah tilt in Salt Lake City the biggest game in the history of the state, and probably in the history of the Mountain West. The Utes are gunning for their second perfect season in five years; BYU is 23-1 in Mountain West games since losing to Utah in 2005 and has won the last two conference championships. It's only the second time (the other was 1994) both teams are ranked coming into the game.
So yeah, it's big, and the Deseret News in Salt Lake City says the ticket prices reflect it -- and then some:
On StubHub alone, the cheapest of the 300-plus available tickets being hawked are going for $110 apiece, the average price for tickets sold so far is $198, and a pair of seats in Redzone N 23 Row 40 are going for $3,200. Business majors at both schools might marvel at the capitalism in process here — all perfectly legal according to the Utah General Attorney's office, too — seeing as the face value of tickets for this game range between $35-$60.
Below is a seating chart of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Find Section N23:
I'm guessing Row 40 is somewhere around the handicap logo. So are we expected to believe that end zone seats for BYU-Utah are going for nearly 100 times their regular face value, or roughly the price of a halfway decent used car?
This sounds bogus. For one thing, they're end zone seats. For another, the most expensive tickets on StubHub as 5 p.m. Eastern are only $411 each; even if the $1,600 pair went between Tuesday night and this afternoon, that's a dubious $1,200 difference. The most expensive I can find online are $750 to $800 apiece on Craigslist, for vastly better seats on the 45-yard line, which is still 10 or 12 times face value.
However big/in-demand the game is, this is certain: The vast majority of the country won't get to see it. Again -- as with the TCU at Utah game earlier in the year, a marquee Mountain West matchup is hidden from most of the country on an obscure regional/satellite channel, in this case Mtn., the less-heralded predecessor of the Big Ten Network created out of frustration with ESPN jerking MWC games across every day of the week. If you live in Utah, Colorado, Nevada or Wyoming, you probably get the channel as part of your cable package; it's also in some areas of San Diego and Texas, in some cases on digital sports tiers. If you live anywhere else and just want to watch a major game between two good teams, you'll have to sign up for sports packages on DirecTV or the Dish Network.
You can't blame the conference for trying to strike out on its own -- for the average Mountain West game that would have no chance to get on one of the ESPNs except as a Tuesday or Wednesday game, at least the Mtn./Versus route gets the game to the locals. But for big, potentially high profile games like Saturday's, you can't blame voters and potential fans across the country for writing off the league because they never get to see it.