It's the undisputed king of all college football conference championships: the SEC Championship Game. Staged in Atlanta since 1994, and in existence since 1992, there's been a waiting list of more than 20,000 people for season tickets for years. It would be more, but the conference decided to cap the list. With a 99% annual renewal rate, there's always a healthy secondary market for tickets to the game.
For the first time in eight years, however, the SEC Championship Game might not produce a national title contender. Since Alabama's devastating loss to Auburn on Saturday, ticket reseller TiqIQ says the average ticket price on the secondary market has dropped 9.3% . . . to $491.97.
Yep, that's right – it'll still cost you a pretty penny to attend Saturday's game in Atlanta, even if the odds don't favor the SEC champion garnering a national title berth. It's more than twice the average price for the Big Ten Championship Game and more than six times the average price in Charlotte to see the ACC Championship Game – and both those games could very well produce national title contenders!
Here's the thing about the SEC Championship Game. It's an event in and of itself. I've been, and you're just as likely to see jerseys and hats from the 12 teams not playing in the game as the two who are in it. Some season ticket holders have held on to their tickets since the game was originally played in Birmingham just to be ready when their team makes the game. There are fans who live in Atlanta who attend religiously every year without regard to the contenders.
The other conference championship games are largely in their infancy. This will be just the third year the Big Ten and Pac-12 have each staged a conference championship game. The ACC held its first conference championship game in 2005, although this is just its fourth year in Charlotte.
Perhaps due to their youth, ticket prices on the secondary market for those games pale in comparison to the SEC's game. In fact, only one other conference championship game has broken the $200 threshold for average ticket price over the past three years: this year's Big Ten matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State, which has a current average of $233, according to TiqIQ.
Below is a look at how ticket prices have played out the past few years in all of the five power conferences, with the exception of the Big XII, which has no game, courtesy of TiqIQ. The larger number is the average ticket price, and the smaller number is the get-in price. While these prices fluctuate from year-to-year with the matchups, what hasn't historically changed is the far superior demand for SEC championship game tickets:
- 2011-Michigan State v Wisconsin: $142.89 ($35)
- 2012-Wisconsin v Nebraska: $115.42 ($33)
- 2013-Michigan St v Ohio State: $232.79 ($140)
- 2011-LSU v Georgia: $440.23 ($160)
- 2012-Alabama v Georgia: $602.24 ($320)
- 2013-Auburn v Missouri: $446.21 ($240)
- 2011-Clemson v Virginia Tech: $169.76 ($58)
- 2012-Georgia Tech v Florida State: $57.91 ($5)
- 2013-Florida State v Duke :$76.09 ($9)
- 2011-Oregon v UCLA: $151.88 ($56)
- 2012-Stanford v UCLA: $144.53 ($86)
- 2013-Arizona State v Stanford: $120.92 ($50)
There's every reason to believe the four-team College Football Playoffs debuting next season will make conference championship games a de facto quarterfinal round. Although there is no exact formula by which the selection committee will choose teams for those games, it has long been acknowledged that conference championships will be considered. Expect that to continue to drive prices up for each of these conference championship games.