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The high costs of attending big college bowl games

A BCS National Championship Series sign.

CORRECTION: This article misidentified the location of the BCS Championship Game. The text has been corrected.


The New Year is upon us. And while the news cycle continues to crackle with concerns about the future of our economy, some New Year traditions go on without interruption. Take college football. It's the peak of the bowl season with a handful of big games on New Year's Day, and the BCS National Championship game a week later. Millions of us watch on television, but the tradition of seeing the big game in person draws legions of traveling fans from across the country.

Perhaps you've seen this viral video of an Alabama fan crying tears of happiness after receiving a pair of BCS Championship tickets from his son for Christmas:

 

 

 

For fans, it's a privilege to see their team in action -- a privilege they pay a pretty penny for. Big games mean big bucks. But it's worth it for Jan Sexton of Abilene, Kan., who is headed to Arizona with six friends and family members for the Fiesta Bowl on January 3. And Ben Jordan of Dallas has attended several bowl games in the past to cheer on the University of Alabama. But the cost of this year's championship game in Florida will force him to sit in front of the TV instead of in the stands.

Sexton's two sons play for the Kansas State Wildcats. Players get an allotment of free tickets, which saves on costs (tickets are $141 or more, depending on seats). But the costs of traveling for the game still add up.

"We were watching plane tickets, keeping a close eye on those. As the days went on and we got further and further into a different bowl the plane tickets, just airfare was going extremely high. We even looked into driving into Oklahoma or up to Nebraska and taking a route there to avoid high airfare. But in the end we decided it would be best to rent a vehicle and we're going to drive the 16-17 hours there," says Sexton.

Sexton says overall travel costs to attend the Fiesta Bowl for the seven people making the journey will be about $1,200-1,300. More than 3 million out-of-state visitors have gone to the Fiesta Bowl through the years.

Jordan is a die-hard Alabama fan who can't afford to make it to the championship game to watch the Crimson Tide play. Tickets in the upper section alone cost about $1,400.

"Even if it was just my father and I, which is probably who it would be, you're talking travel expenses and tickets and airfare to get him from Alabama and to get myself there and everything, you're looking at $8,000," says Jordan.

Plus, other expenses -- organized festivities, celebrating after the game, lodging, food, attire -- can also add up. Despite the high costs, Sexton and Jordan say they travel to different games throughout the year when they can -- and that it's absolutely worth the expense. Although, they add, it does feel more costly when their teams lose.

About the author

Veteran journalist Tony Cox has joined American Public Media as guest host of Marketplace Money.

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