SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Georgia fans John Vaughn and Walt Ellison were feeling good Saturday. They showed up at Notre Dame Stadium without tickets and not only are they getting into the game, they’re sitting among Georgia fans in Section 101 of the lower level.
To top it off, they paid a UGA fan only $200 each.
“The going scalper price was $400 and up,” Vaughn said. “We got lucky.”
They did indeed. Georgia fans from all over the Midwest came for the game Saturday night between their Bulldogs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The teams are playing for the first time in 37 years.
It’s a bucket-list trip for anybody who cares anything about the Bulldogs. And by all accounts, there are well in excess of 20,000 of them in this region this weekend. And they’re not all going to get into the stadium.
After its recent $400 million renovation, Notre Dame Stadium now seats between 78,000 and 79,000 spectators. They’re not sure because they actually haven’t maxed out the place yet.
But Notre Dame and Georgia agreed on an 8,400-ticket swap, which means that’s how many seats the Bulldogs could guarantee their season-ticket donor base and that’s how many the Fighting Irish will get when they come to Sanford Stadium in 2019.
That sent tens of thousands of fans to the secondary market. And with demand high and supply low, that has sent prices through the roof. The average price with taxes and fees was more than $500, with some going for more than $1,000. Face value is $170.
Sports travel experts said this is the highest-demand ticket of the 2017 college football season.
Jeff Cook of All Sports Travel was among the small-time brokers unable to deliver on promises. The Eatonton, Ga., resident could be facing legal action after dozens and possibly hundreds of customers left for South Bend and Chicago without the tickets they bought from him.
“I emailed him again [Friday] and still haven’t heard back from him,” said Jim DeVelvis, who said Cook was supposed to overnight his tickets to the DoubleTree hotel, where he’s staying in South Bend. “My tone has changed, to say the least. He had every chance to tell me he couldn’t get them and refund me. At this point he has made my trip miserable, and I will make his the same when I get back. I may go for the cost of my trip. I will lawyer up.”
Meanwhile, of the thousands of fans in South Bend on Saturday, a lot of them had tickets but a lot of them didn’t. Grant Hummer, a UGA graduate and U.S. Army sergeant, was among the many who planned to just take in the game from a local bar.
The most fans of an opponent to make it inside Notre Dame Stadium was in 2000 when a reported 30,000 Nebraska fans got inside to support the No. 1-ranked Cornhuskers. Locals are saying the Georgia contingent roaming around South Bend on Saturday seems similar.
How many actually get inside is the question.