Fighting Irish Between the Hedges? College football’s hottest ticket carries startling price

No. 7 Notre Dame’s game at No. 3 Georgia on Saturday offers the week’s most compelling matchup, as two storied programs will duel at one of the sport’s iconic sites.

And while it has been billed as the week’s top game, it also figures to double as the most sought-after ticket for a college football game this season.

The combination of Notre Dame’s national draw, Georgia’s rabid fan base and the rarity of the matchup – the schools have only played each other three times – the ticket market has responded accordingly. This summer, according to TicketCity, the starting price to get in Notre Dame-UGA was $674. That was nearly double the amount of the next highest – Texas and LSU at $386.

That get-in price has gone down a bit this week, as the summer prices were geared more toward fans planning trips ahead of time. The lowest get-in price from TicketCity on Tuesday afternoon was $382 for the worst seats, and the general feel is that the cost will rise as there’s a relative lack of inventory on the market.

Overall, the Notre Dame-Georgia game has been considered the most difficult to obtain this year in the ticket market, with Texas-LSU and Texas-Oklahoma trailing. According to Jack Slingland, the vice president of operations for TickPick, the game has the highest average purchase price of any game sold on the ticket site this year. The $502 average price is ahead of both Texas-LSU ($475) and OU-Texas ($435). “When they first announced this matchup, we knew it was going to be a hot ticket,” Slingland said.

The Georgia Bulldogs and Notre Dame Fighting Irish met in 2017 in a narrow 20-19 win for the Bulldogs. (Getty)

Two years ago, Georgia fans raided Notre Dame Stadium and colored it red for the Bulldogs’ 20-19 victory. Georgia hadn’t played a regular season game north of the Mason-Dixon line in nearly a half century, and Bulldogs fans took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to South Bend.

According to data from SeatGeek provided by Notre Dame, a visit from the Fighting Irish results in a 96 percent ticket bump on tickets in the secondary market. That’s the highest in all of college football, with Michigan (68 percent) and Penn State (67 percent) the next highest.

That explains why Notre Dame is routinely involved in the year’s most expensive tickets.

“It has been a number of years now where we’ve had that distinction,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said by phone this week. “The Georgia game here, the Michigan game. The home-and-home with Texas had it. It’s a cool dynamic.”

Don’t expect Irish fans to pull a stadium takeover on Saturday. They have been allotted 8,000 tickets, and Swarbrick said the amount of destination games that they play each season makes it less likely that Irish fans would attempt a reciprocal stadium takeover. According to TickPick, 13 percent of their orders have come from Illinois and Indiana. While Notre Dame has alumni and fans everywhere, that number doesn’t indicate a larger-than-normal opposing fan contingent.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity didn’t get any sense of that happening. He said the most unique aspect of Saturday from the Georgia perspective is that there could be an additional 90,000 people outside the gates of Sanford Stadium, which seats nearly 93,000.

The presence of ESPN’s “College GameDay” combined with the historic nature of the matchup has created a buzz that’s expected to overflow Athens with people.

“Through the 2020s and 2030s there’s not another series scheduled with Notre Dame,” McGarity said in a phone interview Monday. “That’s what makes this unique. It’s the only time the Fighting Irish will be between the hedges.”

Just how many Notre Dame fans will be able to buy their way into this game? McGarity said it will be easy to tell, as Notre Dame’s 8,000 tickets come in two finite blocks located on the 600-level from end zone to end zone and in the northwest corner of the stadium. The amount of gold sprinkled in areas other than those will indicate how many Notre Dame fans braved the secondary market for the game.

McGarity did say that Georgia’s takeover of Notre Dame stadium came with a large dollop of Midwestern hospitality that they’re planning to return.

“Our fans had an awakening traveling to Notre Dame they’d never experienced as a visiting team,” McGarity said of the courteous treatment. “There’s a groundswell of Georgia fans wanting to reciprocate the support the Notre Dame fans and staff showed for us. We don’t see that everywhere we go.”

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