Dig Baton Rouge

Cutting Losses: LSU Ticket Scalping

By Cody Worsham and Randee Iles

On Nov. 3, 2012, Rodney Lavon Brown joined hundreds of thousands on LSU’s campus in the hours before the Tigers were set to take on Alabama in the biggest game of the college football season.

But while the majority of purple-and-gold clad masses – and a few Crimson visitors – were focused on the Rematch of the Century between the 2011 BCS title game finalists, Brown had another color on his mind: green.

Armed with two valuable tickets to the contest, Brown patiently walked the campus, seeking $225 each for his pair – more than triple their printed price. And when an undercover officer approached him in the guise of an interested buyer, Brown – who had previously been banned from campus for scalping tickets ahead of the 2010 LSU-Alabama contest – made his pitch, and bought his own ticket to parish prison, charged with scalping and remaining after being forbidden.

Tangled Web

While Brown was busted in person, the majority of ticket scalping – the sale of tickets for more than their face value – is done online through sites like StubHub.com, where ticket holders can put their seats up for sale at a price of their choosing, without the risk of being approached by undercover cops.

In Louisiana, reselling tickets online for above face value is legal if – and only if – the venue gives permission. And according to Brian Broussard, LSU associate athletic director for ticket operations, the University gives ticket-holders no such permission.

“Our stance is that we don’t allow ticket resale for any of our events for over face value,” Broussard said, “whether that’s online or in person.”

But monitoring every aftermarket ticket isn’t just difficult; it’s practically impossible. While LSU encourages sellers to use its own exchange, LSUTix.net, to sell their extra tickets, many head to StubHub – and other third party vendors like it – to make more off their seat. As of press time, there were more than 1,400 tickets available at StubHub for the homecoming contest between LSU and Ole Miss on Oct. 25, while more than 2,000 tickets were up for sale for both LSU-Kentucky (Oct. 18) and LSU-Alabama (Nov. 5).

Not surprisingly, most of those tickets are being sold for well over face value. Though some upper level Kentucky tickets were available for $18.49, well below their $40 price tag, West lower bowl tickets – priced at $80 on LSUtix.net – ranged in price from $145 to $977 at StubHub.

The price differences at LSUTix.net and StubHub were even steeper for Ole Miss and Alabama, with some $85 face value seats for the Ole Miss game going for $500 on StubHub. Unsurprisingly, there were no Alabama tickets available at LSUTix.net, but some $110 face value lower bowl seats were available for purchase at StubHub for $1,000.

Sure, it’s illegal, but according to Broussard, there’s little to be done about it.

“Enforcement is difficult,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have the staffing to pursue all these instances. If we can identify anything in particular about the seats, we try to potentially take action. If we can identify it’s a season ticket holder, we may issue a warning. And if it’s blatant reselling of every ticket on their account, we may take tickets away for good.”

Econ 101

Another area the practice is rampant – and difficult to monitor – is among students, who often attempt to use loopholes and technology to get more for their tickets.

When trying to buy a ticket to the Alabama game through Facebook, LSU undergrad Victoria Bergeron quickly found out that it would be hard to find anyone selling a seat for less than three times its worth. Outraged about students trying to make so much money, Bergeron took to the “Student Ticket Exchange” group on Facebook to express her frustration. “Looking for a student ticket to the Alabama game,” she wrote. “Preferably one that won’t cost me an arm, a leg, and my first born child.”

Shortly after, Bergeron was indeed offered a ticket – for $300, or 12 times its $25 face value.

This sort of practice among student sellers is not uncommon, but ignorance can’t be claimed as a valid excuse. On each LSU student ticket is the following warning: “In accordance with Louisiana state law the attempted resale, [sic.] of LSU student tickets through means other than those specifically provided by the LSU Ticket Office is expressly prohibited.” The warning goes on to say that students who misuse the ticket may suffer consequences, including the loss of LSU student tickets.

Still, there are ways that scalpers get around this rule. For example, many will say that they are selling a pen for, say, $200, that just so happens to come with a free Ole Miss ticket – a strategy Broussard isn’t buying.

“The pen argument – that doesn’t hold water,” he said.

There is a way for students to sell tickets legally online, through the student ticket marketplace at LSUTix.net, but as of press time, there was only one student ticket available for Saturday’s contest with Kentucky.

Supply and Demand

With big home games looming for LSU against Alabama and Ole Miss, the scalpers are sure to be out in full over the next few weeks, whether sitting behind their laptops or lurking in the shadows of Tiger Stadium.

But according to Broussard, the problem may not be as rampant as years past.

“In 2010, it was a lot more prevalent than maybe this year or in past year or so,” he said, “but a lot of its demand.”

And while LSU’s win over Florida Saturday is sure to re-energize the fan base, prior losses to Mississippi State and Auburn will keep the scalping market lukewarm.

“Bottom line: if you’re undefeated you’ll have more demand than if you’ve lost one or two games,” Broussard said.

Ticketholders unable or uninterested in attending home games will, invariably, look to make more than face value, and LSU football is still a hot ticket – particularly for students, for whom the game is as much a social experience as a sporting one. That adds value, says LSU student Josh Lahasky.

“Students sell their tickets based on what they see the face value tickets going for,” Lahasky said, “and not just what the face value of [what] an actual student ticket is.”

That being said, wins and losses do affect the bottom line. A student (who wished to remain anonymous) trying to sell her Alabama ticket said that people were selling their tickets for more than $200 before LSU’s losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, but now a typical ticket is selling for around $100.

Broussard, meanwhile, is careful to emphasize that all fans are free to sell their tickets – at the right price. The main concern of his office is that fans don’t seek to unfairly profit off of LSU’s back – and do so frequently.

“We’re more concerned with someone trying to use LSU with that intent – reselling tickets any time they get their hands on them,” he said. “I don’t think any of us are concerned if they can’t make a game and they need to sell their ticket.”

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