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Sports NCAA Football

What it Costs to See a Champion: College Football National Championship

January 23, 2017 by Vivid Seats


The college football postseason landscape finally transformed into the playoff many sports fans had longed for in 2014. And as you can see in the chart below, the postseason format wasn't the only major change.

*Jump to: Factors Influencing Prices

Other Championship Ticket Price Studies: OverallCollege Basketball | MLB | NBANFL | NHL


Full Key


*Note: To accommodate the semifinals, prices reflect the season during which the games took place
**Bold denotes winner


2011 Season – New Orleans, Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Alabama vs LSU)

2012 Season – Miami Gardens, Sun Life Stadium (Alabama vs Notre Dame)

2013 Season – Pasadena, Rose Bowl Stadium (Auburn vs Florida State)


2014 Playoff


Pasadena, Rose Bowl Stadium (Florida State vs Oregon)

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Alabama vs Ohio State)

National Championship Game - Arlington, AT&T Stadium: (Ohio State vs Oregon)


2015 Playoff


Miami Gardens, Sun Life Stadium (Clemson vs Oklahoma)

Arlington, AT&T Stadium (Alabama vs Michigan State)

National Championship Game - Glendale, University of Phoenix Stadium (Alabama vs Clemson)


2016 Playoff


Glendale, University of Phoenix Stadium (Clemson vs Ohio State)

Atlanta, Georgia Dome (Alabama vs Washington)

National Championship Game - Tampa, Raymond James Stadium (Alabama vs Clemson)

2017 Playoff:


Pasadena, Rose Bowl (Georgia vs. Oklahoma)

Superdome, New Orleans (Alabama vs. Clemson)

National Championship Game - Mercedez-Benz Stadium (Alabama vs. Georgia)

Factors Influencing Prices


Impact of the Semifinals on National Championship Game Ticket Prices

Looking at the 2011-13 seasons during the BCS era, national championship ticket prices sold for an average of $1,359, while in the first three years under the College Football Playoff format, that average dropped 30% to $955.

The likely culprits in the decline are the semifinal games, as fans may be opting to travel just once in the postseason and rather than rolling the dice on a win, choose to attend the semifinal contest only.


Proximity of Schools/Fan Bases to Host Site

In addition to the semifinals, location also is a factor when it comes to ticket prices for the national championship game. We took a look at what Google Maps says the shortest driving distances are from the campus of the national championship teams to their respective host venues:


2011 – New Orleans, Mercedes-Benz Superdome: Alabama (293 miles), LSU (79 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 186 miles

2012 – Miami Gardens, Sun Life Stadium: Alabama (765 miles), Notre Dame (1,326 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 1,045.5 miles

2013 – Pasadena, Rose Bowl Stadium: Auburn (2,124 miles), Florida State (2,255 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 2,189.5 miles

2014 – Arlington, AT&T Stadium: Ohio State (1,061 miles), Oregon (2,012 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 1,536.5 miles

2015 – Glendale, University of Phoenix Stadium: Alabama (1,668 miles), Clemson (1,970 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 1,819 miles

2016 – Tampa, Raymond James Stadium: Alabama (573 miles), Clemson (569 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 571 miles

2017 – Atlanta, Raymond James Stadium: Alabama (202 miles), Georgia (72 miles)
Combined average distance from host venue: 137 miles


Looking at the combined average distance of participating teams to the host venue, we see that the most expensive BCS game, Alabama vs LSU, also featured two schools located relatively close in proximity to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while the least expensive BCS game included two schools located thousands of miles away. 

This could simply be a coincidence, but considering it also happened with college basketball's national championship games, it's more likely that location does in fact have an impact.

Fans are located all around the world, though there's no guarantee that a vast majority reside near any national championship host venues. Therefore, some kind of travel is going to be involved - likely by plane, but for the thrifty college student, a good old fashioned road trip may be easier on the wallet.

With the University of Alabama just under 300 miles from New Orleans and LSU a mere 79 give or take, travel costs were likely low, meaning any college students (or local fans on a budget) looking to attend the game had some wiggle room when it came time to buy tickets. 

That's not the case, though, when the travel distance could be upwards of 2,000 miles and there isn't a ton of advance notice or time to shop around.

So, in the case of significant travel required, it's possible college students (or anyone on a budget) may opt for less pricey plans like either watching at home or attending a semifinal game that may not cost as much in travel and tickets. They also may just spend more time shopping around waiting to catch a deal, which would drive prices down leading up to the game. Many locals may have purchased tickets as well, especially if reasonably priced for such a major sporting event. 

It took five seasons, but the close proximity factor once again came into play for the 2017 national championship game. What was especially interesting was the fact that it featured the exact two teams as the previous year - Alabama and Clemson - but what a difference location made. Rather than calling on fans to travel across the country to Arizona, the distance was cut by more than half with the game taking place in Florida. As a result, the average price paid increased 95% from $683 to $1,329.

In 2018, distance was a huge storyline, as the Georgia Bulldogs played for a title practically in their backyard: in the new Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Unsurprisingly, ticket prices soared, as Alabama also had a relatively short trip. With an average of $2,306 per ticket, it's the most expensive college football title game Vivid Seats has tracked.

Participating Teams

Much to the delight of Alabama football fans, the Crimson Tide have been involved in five of the last seven national championship games. 

While semifinal games and location are more likely to be contributing factors year over year, there's no denying the drawing power of a program like Alabama.

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