Iron Bowl for $499 Makes Alabama-Auburn Top Rivalry in Football

If the cost of attending indicates the biggest rivalry game in college football, Alabama’s Iron Bowl is the winner in a rout.

The average resale price for a ticket to tomorrow’s installment of the annual meeting between Auburn University and the University of Alabama was $499 on Nov. 27, according to the secondary market ticket-aggregator TiqIQ. Held this year on the Tigers’ Auburn, Alabama, campus, the average Iron Bowl ticket price is more than double last year’s in Tuscaloosa and higher than the combined costs for rivalry games in two days between Michigan and Ohio State, Florida and Florida State, and Oregon and Oregon State.

The Iron Bowl victor has gone on to claim the national championship each of the last four seasons, and this one might produce the fifth. Alabama, an 11-point favorite, is 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Auburn, with a loss at Louisiana State, is 10-1 and ranked fourth. In a year when many rivalry-game ticket prices are below recent highs, the battle for Alabama rages on.

“This is the biggest Iron Bowl we’ve had in recent history,” Candice Carden, the office manager at Capstone Tickets in Tuscaloosa, said in a telephone interview. “It’s probably the highest-priced and most sought-after ticket as far as the Iron Bowl goes for as long as I can remember, and that’s about 10 or 12 years.”

Alabama is based in Tuscaloosa, about 160 miles from Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 87,451 that makes it the 10th-largest on-campus U.S. stadium, according to the Tigers’ website. The school says it has sold more than 75,000 season tickets each of the last 18 years.

Roll Tide

The Crimson Tide hold a 42-34-1 advantage over the Tigers in the game first played in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1893, and the nickname comes from the city’s historic role in the iron industry. After a six-year Auburn win streak from 2002 to 2007, the Crimson Tide have taken five of six. The Tigers, led by quarterback Cam Newton, won 28-27 in 2010 en route to their first consensus national title since the 1957 season.

Iron Bowl prices are so high this year because of history and what lies ahead, according to Carden.

“It’s always a big game, because the two schools hate each other,” she said. “There’s a lot riding on it. In past years it hadn’t been that way. One school might have had a lot riding on it but the other school didn’t.”

Championship Chance

Alabama, the 11-point pick at the Las Vegas Hotel Superbook, is trying to become the first team to finish No. 1 for three straight years in the Associated Press poll, which started in 1936. Auburn trails undefeated Florida State and Ohio State in the BCS standings. The top two BCS teams will vie for the national title on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Iron Bowl prices are averaging about $450 at Capstone, Carden said, noting that yesterday’s Thanksgiving holiday and poor weather in the state this week softened the market a bit. Seats near midfield sold last week for around $700 apiece, she said.

The average price is higher than all but three National Football League games this season, according to New York-based TiqIQ. The Denver Broncos’ Nov. 17 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs averaged $589, the New Orleans Saints’ Dec. 1 contest at the Seattle Seahawks is $548, and the Seahawks’ Dec. 8 game at the San Francisco 49ers is $525.

“Generally, this year is down for the annual week of rivalry games, except for ’Bama versus Auburn,” Chris Matcovich, a spokesman for TiqIQ, said in an e-mail. He said that rivalry week, along with the days leading up to the season openers generally produce the highest prices for regular-season games on the secondary market.

Unbeatens Play

Ohio State and Florida State can extend undefeated seasons in road rivalry games against schools that don’t have a shot at the national title. Prices to the Buckeyes’ game at Michigan (7-4) are averaging $173, down from $419 last year and $279 in 2011. The average price of a ticket for Florida State’s game at Florida (4-7) is $131, compared to $223 in 2012 and $173 a year earlier, according to TiqIQ.

The average prices for other traditional rivalry games, according to TiqIQ, are UCLA at USC, $214; Notre Dame at Stanford, $122; Oregon State at Oregon, $113; Washington State at Washington, $214; Arizona at Arizona State, $149; Virginia Tech at Virginia, $90; Kansas State at Kansas, $78; and Tennessee at Kentucky, $60.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said this week that his team, which went 3-9 last year, has steadily improved behind junior quarterback Nick Marshall, who transferred in June from Garden City Community College in Kansas. Marshall has thrown for 1,530 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing for 823 yards and nine scores.

Teammates’ Faith

“Our players have a lot of respect for him,” Malzahn said at a news conference. “He doesn’t get too high or low, but he’s got that air about him. They really believe in him, even in pressure situations. He’s going to make a play; of course, he’s showed that so far this year.”

The Crimson Tide are led by senior quarterback A.J. McCarron, who has completed 68.6 percent of 277 pass attempts this season for 2,399 yards and 23 touchdowns, with five interceptions. McCarron, who has a 36-2 record as a starter, said he tries to avoid the Iron Bowl hype.

“People need to realize that it’s just another game,” McCarron said in an interview on the school’s website. “It’s just another Saturday. I don’t know how many games of the century you can play in, but we’ve played in quite a few.”

Carden, 30, of Capstone Tickets said she’ll be rooting for her alma mater Alabama tomorrow, though business comes first.

“We’ll sell to anybody who calls,” she said. “Most of our buyers are Alabama fans, but we’ve had a few Auburn fans call and buy some tickets.”

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