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CFP national championship: Georgia, Alabama fans pay big bucks for all-SEC title game

Georgia football fans gather for activities outside the

Georgia football fans gather for activities outside the College Football Playoff National Championship game between Alabama and Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 08 January 2018. Credit: LESSER/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

ATLANTA — Ben Lorick was standing across from Phillips Arena, a short walk from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, waiting patiently for the chance to watch his school play for a national championship in his hometown.

“Every kid in the state goes,” said Lorick, a 22-year-old Alabama student. “I just wanted to get out and do my own thing.”

Lorick was one of the lucky ones. He was able to get his ticket for free through the university. He was headed for the College Football Playoff national championship game in the hope that his school would add to its list of 16 claimed national titles.

The Georgia Bulldogs, 72 miles from their campus in Athens, were playing for their third national championship and the first since 1980. That team was headed by Herschel Walker, an honorary captain Monday night, who won the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

The presence of the Bulldogs, who were playing for a national title for the first time since the 1983 Sugar Bowl loss to Penn State, provided a home team for the fourth championship game under the current format. Unlike the process that once allowed the Miami Hurricanes to play for championships on their home field in the Orange Bowl during the 1980s and 1990s, the Bulldogs had to earn their way home with a comeback victory over Oklahoma in the semifinals.

Most fans were not as lucky as Lorick. According to the StubHub website, the cheapest ticket was $1,500 as of Monday afternoon, and the cheapest option in the lower bowl was $2,388.14.

The face value of tickets ranged from $375 to $875, but the draw of an all-Southeastern Conference matchup in the heart of SEC territory increased demand on the secondary market to the highest levels since the Alabama-Notre Dame Bowl Championship Series title game in 2013, according to SportsBusiness Daily. The publication reported that the average ticket cost for Monday night’s game was $2,413.

Charles Doyle, a 77-year-old from Atlanta, said he has been a fan of the Dawgs since 1944. Dressed in all white, including a white cowboy hat, he waited outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the hopes of finding a ticket for the game.

Mark Hughes, 59, who lives in Tuscaloosa, was willing to pay the steep price to see the Crimson Tide try for its second victory in a College Football Playoff title game. Hughes said he paid $2,500 for his ticket in the 300 level of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Hughes said it was worth it to have the chance to attend a fourth national title game featuring Alabama. Its success hasn’t gotten old for him.

“Any time you play for a national championship, it’s the pinnacle,” he said, “You never know when it’s gonna happen again.”

Alabama fans hoped coach Nick Saban would win his sixth national championship, including the 2004 title at LSU. A sixth championship would tie Saban with Paul “Bear” Bryant.

On Saturday morning, when fans were allowed to attend Media Day at Phillips Arena, Georgia followers nearly filled one side of the lower bowl. The Bulldogs were greeted with boisterous cheers, with an occasional “Go Dawgs!” throughout their hour in the spotlight. When the Georgia session was complete, most of the Bulldogs fans filtered out.

As Doyle, the Bulldogs fan, stood in a drizzle, he said that if he could not find a ticket to get inside, he was going to open a bottle of champagne in the street and celebrate his team.

“I am so proud of them,” he said.

New York Sports