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Canzano: College Football Playoff wants to empty your pockets
Escalating costs have me wondering.
Washington State fans who attended the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl a couple of weeks ago at SoFi Stadium were offered an exclusive pre-game “tailgate experience” inside the stadium on the East Patio of the Chairman’s Club.
The event included a DJ and appearances by the Cougar Marching Band, WSU Spirit Squad and Butch, the cougar mascot. Attendees got access to three stations of all-inclusive food and five drink coupons. I’m told by some who attended that it was a wonderful event.
Cost for those age 21-and-older: $115.
Everyone else: $64.
That didn’t include game tickets, which started at $35 for nosebleed seats. But I’m here to tell you the pregame event looks like a screaming-good deal.
The College Football Playoff title game between Georgia and TCU is set for Monday at SoFi Stadium. Organizers announced this week that they will not allow tailgating in the stadium parking lot. In addition to game tickets — which are selling on the secondary market for $1,500-plus on the lower level — you’ll have to either find a private tailgate event inside the stadium or pay through your nose at the SoFi concession stand.
At this week’s Rose Bowl game between Utah and Penn State, a can of domestic beer was $16. A bottle of water was $5.50. That falls in line with the $12 hot dogs and $17 beers that SoFi Stadium served for the Super Bowl last February. Incidentally, the Rams and Chargers only got a measly $8 for a hot dog at the same venue during the regular season.
What I’m saying is there’s just one game left in the college football season and the CFP organizers would like you to arrive hungry, thirsty and carrying your credit card. They have manufactured themselves a monopoly here.
The Fan Cost Index estimates what it might cost a family of four to attend a professional sporting event. The report has been published annually by a Chicago-based firm for the last 30 years.
The estimate includes four average-price game tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking, two game programs and the two least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.
I don’t know why any regular American family would require two game programs. But I’m guessing a lot of families have been priced out of large-scale, in-person sporting events.
The cost for that family of four to attend a Las Vegas Raiders game this season was highest in the NFL: $738. The Rams checked in at a cool $608. The cost to attend Monday’s college football national championship game, where the cheapest tickets are selling for $400 each, is a lot steeper.
Using their criteria and expected concession prices, my armchair estimate for a family of four to see TCU-Georgia play on Monday night is $2,308. That’s without airfare, a hotel and other costs.
I grew up in the Bay Area. When I was a kid, we went to a few San Francisco Giants games every season. I attended a handful of Golden State Warriors games and we got tickets to a San Francisco 49ers game once in the early 1980s. And we had season tickets to San Jose State football games for a few years.
Those tickets were only $10 each. My parents must have cringed at paying an additional $5 for a game program on a college football Saturday, but dad always bought me one. The games were a treat. They had tremendous impact on me and were some of the best memories of my childhood.
While college football games remain far more affordable than professional sports, they’re rising in cost, too. The escalating prices associated with professional sports and bowl game experiences made me wonder how many families have already thrown the keys in and stopped going to stadiums and arenas altogether.
One more thing — the transfer portal and NIL rules have created pseudo free agency in college sports. Several college athletic directors told me months ago that they were concerned that existing sponsorships might be cannibalized by companies that decided they wanted to allocate their budget to directly paying athletes instead.
Everyone is chasing new revenue streams. The potential fallout isn’t a mystery. Budget shortfalls are always passed down to the consumer.
So yeah. Absolutely no tailgating in the SoFi Stadium parking lot before Monday’s championship game. If you want to bring food, you’ll have to quietly eat it in your car or smuggle it into the stadium. The College Football Playoff aims to leave us with a national champion at the end of the season.
Empty pockets, too.
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