When Ohio State upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, it didn’t take long for Stacey Brooks to commit to the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium.
The next day, Brooks got a call and learned that his nephew and some friends had found tickets. He quickly agreed to go.
Even though he is excited about Monday’s game, the short break since the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans made it challenging. And that doesn’t take into account the Big Ten championship game, played Dec. 6 in Indianapolis.
Fans from Oregon, which played in the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) on Jan. 1 and the Pac-12 championship game (San Francisco) on Dec. 5, expressed the same concerns.
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Tickets to the championship game can cost hundreds of dollars, and making last-minute travel arrangements can be exhausting.
Brooks, who lives in Beverly, Ohio, about 100 miles southeast of the Ohio State campus, was enduring a whirlwind itinerary that took him to airports in West Virginia and Washington, D.C., before his expected arrival at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Saturday.
“The spacing between the games — I’m not sure it’s optimal,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to try to make arrangements to get to those places within 10 days, and most transportation is already booked. From that standpoint, it needs to be spread out two weeks or more to make traveling easier.”
The 1988 Ohio State grad didn’t pay as much as others. His flight, hotel and game ticket will run about $1,200.
Lisa Cisco, co-owner of Travel Partners in Dublin, Ohio, said some Buckeye fans faced a difficult decision: spend their dollars in New Orleans or wait to see whether the team made it to Arlington.
“Do they take the sure thing, or do they hold out for the national champion?” Cisco said. “Some people are disappointed they took the Sugar Bowl.”
Cisco wasted no time in arranging charter flights, starting at 3 a.m. Jan. 2, hours after the Sugar Bowl win over top-ranked Alabama.
Cisco estimates that at least 10 charters are flying from the Columbus, Ohio, area to the game.
She offered a three-day package, including flight, hotel and an upper-level game seat, for $2,599 per person. With a lower-level seat, the price was $2,899.
But she said the first flights to sell out were one-day packages with a round-trip flight and an upper-level seat for $1,739 — $999 if you already had a ticket. Those fans will fly in Monday and leave after the game.
She predicts that Dallas-Fort Worth won’t see the same influx of dollars that it would from a traditional bowl game, which usually becomes a weeklong event. Many people are taking shorter trips because of expenses or simply because they can’t be gone from work or home that long.
The local festivities are also spread out. The game is in Arlington, and ESPN set up shop in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square Plaza. But most other game-related events are in Dallas.
“I don’t think that the host city is going to get the same benefit as the cities hosting semifinal games,” Cisco said. “New Orleans will benefit from the Buckeyes so much more than Dallas will. If you traveled to both games, a couple could easily spend $10,000, and that doesn’t include food.”
Complicating matters for some Ohio boosters is the inauguration bash for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, which will take place at the same time as the game.
“A lot of GOP’ers will be in Ohio,” said Todd Lindenbaum of SuiteHop.com “It’s a tangential thing, but it all has an impact.”
Lindenbaum said the secondary market for luxury suites was nonexistent because of the quick turnaround and the overabundance of suites at AT&T Stadium.
“I think when Alabama got knocked out, it created a lot of excess,” Lindenbaum said. “If Florida State had made it through, that would have also driven up demand. Obviously, those fans could drive to the game.”
Lindenbaum said most suite holders will have difficulty recouping what they paid for the suites in July. He’s telling holders to use the suites for the game.
“What we’ve been advising is if you’ve got a business case for using the suite, you should probably go ahead and get your invites out,” Lindenbaum said.
Ducks migrating south
Tom Finneran, a rabid Oregon fan from Portland, said everyone he knows is trying to make it to the game despite the distance. One group of friends was even driving in a recreational vehicle.
“It’s off the chain,” Finneran said. “Everybody I know is going to make it down there.”
Even though the secondary market showed ticket prices dropping below face value, Finneran said prices could surge as more Ducks fans make it to DFW at the last minute.
“It’s very difficult to get flights,” Finneran said. “It’s a mishmash depending on which way you fly down there. But I know people that are still trying.”
Finneran, who dresses as the Duck Nut, an unofficial Oregon mascot clad in camouflage and green-and-gold face paint, made his own travel plans and will stay in an Arlington motel.
He’ll arrive Saturday night and stay until Wednesday, making appearances all over the Metroplex as the Duck Nut.
Portland TV station KOIN sent a crew on a 2,100-mile road trip to Texas, featuring live reports with Ducks fans as they traveled across the U.S.
Planned stops included Las Vegas; Tempe, Ariz.; El Paso and Austin, with arrival in Dallas on Saturday. The TV station did a similar road trip to Glendale, Ariz., in 2011 when Oregon lost the national championship game to Auburn.
“I think the mood among Ducks is a lot more confident this time around,” said KOIN anchor Jeff Gianola. “I think the sense is this is a much stronger team.”
But Gianola acknowledged that Ohio State would probably have more fans inside AT&T Stadium on Monday night.
“It’s a lot cheaper to get down to Pasadena than Dallas, but Oregon will be well-represented,” Gianola said.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698
If you go
Numerous College Football Playoff events are scheduled.
8 a.m.- 8 p.m.: Playoff Fan Central, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, 650 S. Griffin St., Dallas.
5 p.m.: AT&T Playoff Playlist Live!, American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave., Dallas.
Noon-8 p.m.: Playoff Fan Central, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
6 p.m.: AT&T Playoff Playlist Live!, American Airlines Center
Noon-6 p.m.: Championship Tailgate, AT&T Stadium, Arlington
7:30 p.m.: College Football Playoff National Championship Game, AT&T Stadium
In Fort Worth
ESPN will move its broadcasting hub to Dallas on Saturday, then return to Sundance Square Plaza in downtown Fort Worth on Sunday and Monday. Other broadcasts will originate from AT&T Stadium on Sunday night and Monday.
7:30-8 a.m.: The Sports Reporters, ESPN2
8-9 a.m.: SportsCenter, ESPN
8-9 a.m.: Colin’s Football Show, ESPN2
7-11 p.m.: Championship Drive: Countdown to Kickoff, ESPN
11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.: Championship Drive: College Football Playoff National Championship Preview, ESPN2
5-9 a.m.: Mike & Mike, ESPN2
9 a.m.-noon: The Herd With Colin Cowherd, ESPNU
Noon-2 p.m.: SVP & Russillo, ESPNEWS
2-3 p.m.: SVP & Russillo, ESPN3