Fans in the Great Lakes area love college football. They love it so much, in fact, they're willing to pay top dollar to see their teams play.
A Rivals.com survey of season-ticket prices at each of the 120 FBS programs shows that four teams in that area -- Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan -- charge the most for season tickets. With required donations or seat licenses, the most inexpensive season ticket at those schools costs more than $900.
The least-expensive season tickets for Big Six schools:
The costliest season tickets for non-Big Six schools:
The highest and lowest season-tickets prices by conference:
Big-time college football, apparently a recession-proof enterprise, remains a textbook example of supply and demand. For some programs, the demand for season tickets is so great and the supply so limited (even in 100,000-plus stadiums) that successful programs can require thousands of dollars in donations just for the chance to purchase season tickets.
The most expensive ticket is at Ohio State, which costs $2,107, including a donation for the right to buy season tickets.
But just a few hours west, Illinois -- Ohio State's Big Ten rival -- offers season tickets for as little as $77. And USF's $75 end zone package is the least-expensive season ticket offered by a team in a Big Six conference.
What's important to remember is that tickets for some programs require more luck than money.
For example, an Alabama season ticket conceivably could be purchased for $455, which would include a minimum $80 contribution to the
Tide Pride donor program. The key word is "conceivably."
The opportunity to purchase tickets at that price primarily is limited to those who already have season tickets in the end zones and are content to renew
them with the same seat location. A spokesman from Alabama's Developmental Office estimated a new customer may have to donate at least $5,000
to purchase season tickets this year; he also estimated the school's season-ticket waiting list at about 17,000.
An expansion of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, which increased seating capacity to more than 101,000, has made available about an additional
2,000 season tickets to the public. But there are about eight times that many fans who have applied to purchase those tickets.
Major-college programs typically use a priority system that awards points based on financial donations to determine a pecking order to purchase
tickets. By the time all the big-money donors have made their purchases, frequently no tickets remain for fans who have made minimum or no donations.
A case in point is Oklahoma, which offers season tickets for $394. Non-donors are put on an estimated 15-year waiting list to buy tickets, and
even those who make the minimum $100 donation have only a slight chance of getting tickets.
Likewise, Nebraska offers season tickets for $378, but without at least a $150 donation, there is no realistic chance to buy them. Nebraska
has had 304 consecutive sellouts -- or about 50 seasons in a row of sold-out games.
Penn State season tickets are $385, but they are available only to members of the Nittany Lion Club, which requires a minimum $50 donation.
A larger donation would be needed for a realistic chance to buy tickets, although the minimum donation may change from year to year.
Demand at Florida is so high that in recent years, the ticket office has been able to fill orders only with a minimum $1,800 donation. That isn't
expected to change this year.
LSU has a point system to determine who gets the chance to buy season tickets at $350 per seat.
"It's not impossible [to buy without a donation], but I'd be pretty comfortable saying I don't think we'll get down to the no-donation ranking," said Tim
Messa, LSU's assistant director of ticket operations. "But who knows?"
A few years ago, LSU season tickets could be purchased at a base price. Then, LSU won the 2003 national championship and season tickets have
been in great demand ever since. That doesn't figure to change unless the Tigers endure a couple of eight-win seasons. While that may not lessen the
demand, it may reduce the donation required to buy tickets.
"One year, you might have to donate $10,000," Messa said. "If we have a bad season and the renewal rates slow down, you might only have to donate
Georgia and Michigan currently are experiencing those kinds of reductions. Last year a minimum donation of $4,205 (down from
$10,651 in '08) was needed to buy Georgia season tickets. This year, the minimum donation needed is expected to drop again, though officials in the
Georgia ticket office are not yet certain how much.
At Michigan, a donation of $1,500 was needed to buy end zone tickets. But after back-to-back losing seasons, a spokesman in Michigan's ticket office
estimated a $500 donation would be required this year.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.