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Penn State, Big Ten Among Nation’s Most Expensive Student Football Tickets

Any given year, a slate of Oregon, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, and Penn State would make for a pretty convincing College Football Playoff race. But this isn’t the ranking fans celebrate on Tuesday nights.

It’s one that students will feel at 7 a.m. throughout this week — not while listening to Rece Davis say that “anything can happen in November.”

Penn State is among an exclusive club of universities with student tickets priced well over $200. The university has the fourth most expensive student ticket package in college football. Only Oregon ($292, although students can opt into a ticket lottery for free), Ohio State ($252), and Notre Dame ($245) students pay more for their football-only season tickets than the steep $232 mandated by Penn State.

In terms of per-game costs, Penn State is fifth in the nation. USC, which will play only six home games this season, charges $200 for season tickets. The per-game cost comes out to $33.33, just cents ahead of Penn State’s weekly clip of $33.14.

If USC played seven home games, its students would pay $233.33 for season tickets. And if every university played seven home football games, the only schools with more expensive student tickets than Penn State would be Oregon, Ohio State, and two private schools with costs of attendance already hinging on $70,000.

Penn State Athletics increased the price of student tickets by $14 (or $2 per game) for this season, the first increase since 2009. Athletics didn’t return a request for comment on what factors are considered in setting the price of student tickets.

The full ranking of the most expensive student ticket prices in the country is as follows:

  1. Oregon ($41.17 per game)
  2. Ohio State ($36 per game)
  3. Notre Dame ($35 per game
  4. USC ($33.33 per game
  5. Penn State ($33.14 per game)
  6. Oklahoma ($30 per game)
  7. Wisconsin ($27 per game)
  8. Michigan State ($26 per game)
  9. Michigan ($25 per game)
  10. Nebraska ($24 per game)

Here are how the prices of student season tickets at Big Ten schools compare:

  1. Ohio State ($36 per game)
  2. Penn State ($33.14 per game)
  3. Wisconsin ($27 per game)
  4. Michigan State ($26 per game)
  5. Michigan ($25 per game)
  6. Nebraska ($24 per game)
  7. Iowa ($21 per game)
  8. Purdue ($14.14 per game)
  9. Rutgers ($13.86 per game)
  10. Illinois ($13.63 per game)
  11. Minnesota ($12 per game)
  12. Indiana ($10 per game)
  13. Maryland and Northwestern (tuition/fee-subsidized)

Save for Oregon, Notre Dame, USC, and Oklahoma, the national top ten for the most expensive ticket prices is an extension of the Big Ten’s ranking. The cost of tickets at Penn State isn’t necessarily a Penn State problem: It’s a Big Ten problem.

The Big Ten’s average per-game price of $21.14  is more than that of any other conference (excluding Maryland and Northwestern, which offer tuition or fee-subsidized sports tickets).

While the Big Ten is arguably the most competitive conference and its scale of ticket prices resembles believable conference standings, don’t let the level of talent on the field fool you into thinking the Big Ten’s sky-high prices are justified.

The SEC sent two teams to the College Football Playoff this year, has been this century’s golden standard in college football, and has a more lucrative conference television deal and channel than the Big Ten. Its teams, however, have an average student season ticket price of $12.82 per game — more than $8 less than what the average Big Ten student pays.

The SEC’s average price excludes Texas A&M, Missouri, and Arkansas, which all offer bundled sports ticket deals, and South Carolina and Vanderbilt, which offer tuition or fee-funded tickets. Alabama does not make its student ticket prices available online, and its ticket office declined to share them when contacted. In 2015, Alabama’s full-season package cost $70.

Here’s a sampling of the universities with competitive teams charging much less than the king’s ransom paid by Penn State and other Big Ten students: Virginia Tech ($16 per game), LSU ($11 per game), Mississippi State ($10 per game), Georgia ($8 per game), Clemson ($0 per game), Miami ($0 per game), and Stanford ($0 per game) — real, meaningful college football at an affordable and even generous price. Every team listed here made a bowl game and combined for a 71-24 record last season.

Furthermore, given the program’s recent success and stellar slate of upcoming opponents, Penn State’s high price might be more justified than ever this season (relatively speaking, of course). But just a few years ago, students loyally shelled out $218 and filled Beaver Stadium to watch a team deteriorated by sanctions post a 7-6 record.

Whether Penn State is fourth or fifth on the list of the most expensive ticket prices in the country, the point remains: Regardless of how expensive or inconvenient it is to get into Beaver Stadium to watch the Nittany Lions play, all 21,000 student tickets will sell out in mere minutes. Once the season begins, students will pay much more than $33.14 for single game tickets on the university-controlled resale market, including a $29 fee for guest tickets.

And although we all let out a collective groan when Athletics jacked up the price for season tickets by $14 for this season, did anyone honestly let that fluctuation influence his or her decision to wake up at 7 a.m. this week and buy tickets?

Penn State knows its football tickets are an inelastic good. The athletic department’s price won’t affect students’ demand. Students will always show up seven times a year with shakers in hand and wearing white, whether their tickets are free, $232, or maybe even $1,232. Penn State has its fans (myself included) on the ends of a string and knows it.

This isn’t to say that all schools take advantage of students’ unwavering demand for college football or even that tickets should be handed out. But some universities, like the many mentioned earlier, have it figured out. They manage to make exciting game day experiences as accessible as possible with affordable, student-friendly plans.

***

We’ve spent the last few weeks researching how student ticket sales work around the country. Throughout this week, we’ll examine how other universities fill their student sections on game day. Check in tomorrow for a review of how universities like Clemson and Miami provide either free or tuition/fee-subsidized football tickets. And if you’re a senior, be sure to set your alarm tonight for 6:45 a.m. and redirect a good portion of your last paycheck to the Man.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Oregon’s season tickets cost $292 per game, instead of per season in the ranking. We apologize for this mathematical mistake and promise to stick to writing.

About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci is Onward State’s Social Media Manager, a preferred walk-on honors student, and a junior majoring in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. Feel free to follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter and email him at [email protected] to hear the story or if you’re bored and want to chat.

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