NCAA ticket scalping: Now totally legit

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
12:08
PM ET
Any time you hear the words "ticket" and "scalp" in the same sentence, the neck hairs tend to stand up. The Kansas ticket fraud scandal that rocked the Jayhawks athletic department in May (and might have had something to do with KU athletic director Lew Perkins' decision to retire in September of 2011) only added to a long history of negative, sketchy associations surrounding the practice of buying and selling tickets on the secondary market.

Outside stadiums, this is no big deal. It hasn't been a big deal for a very long time. But in college sports, the stakes are different; the practice of giving tickets to boosters and families belies commercialization and creates the potential for big problems if those tickets start drifting into the wrong hands. Like, you know, at Kansas. It would probably be better for everyone if, like most professional sports, college sports worked with a legitimate broker and brought its secondary ticket market into the open.

Which brings us to our "Did you know?" of the day: Did you know that since 2007 the NCAA has partnered with a secondary market ticket broker at NCAA Final Four events? It's true:
The NCAA in 2007 enlisted the Razorgator online exchange service as its "official ticket and hospitality package provider" for the men's Final Four. The deal has since been extended to include the women's Final Four, the College World Series, Frozen Four hockey tournament and the remaining four rounds of March Madness.

Greg Shaheen, an NCAA senior vice president, said the association was tired of watching secondary market ticket sellers profit off the NCAA's name and reputation. He said the partnership with Razorgator also allows the NCAA to limit ticket fraud. "It acknowledges reality," Shaheen said. "Our goal is to provide a legitimate, safe, guaranteed means by which those transactions occur."

The Final Four is a pretty unique situation. There are thousands of fans who purchase tickets in the hopes their teams advance to Monday night's title game; when that doesn't happen, plenty of those fans are ready to sell their wares, pack their things, and get back to the depressing fact that work starts again on Monday. Letting all those tickets go through an unsupervised outside influence (or, more likely, the hundreds of outside influences that stand outside arenas and shout "I got tickets! I need tickets! Who's selling? Who needs tickets?" which is always inherently hilarious) is just a bad idea.

This isn't limited to the NCAA, or the Final Four. In 2007, after years of fighting tooth and nail with the secondary market, Major League Baseball partnered with Stubhub. This has gone incredibly well:
Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB Advance Media, the arm of the sport that runs MLB.com, said most teams have come to the realization that the secondary market is a benefit, not a blow. "We're in the secondary market whether we embraced it or not," he said. "There's no one who can go to all 81 games. The clubs don't benefit from tickets in the drawer."

Bowman acknowledged that at least some of the credit for teams selling a record number of tickets again this year is due to the rapid growth of online ticket resales on StubHub and similar services. "Without question, the increasing knowledge that there is a vibrant, safe, legal liquid market for the tickets encourages our fans to buy season ticket packages, since they know they can recoup some of those costs."

All of which is a long way of saying that individual schools should start doing this, too. Some already are: Stubhub currently partners with 13 schools, with Alabama, Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, USC and Wisconsin among them, to sell secondary tickets. Theoretically, that should help athletic departments like Kansas' avoid ticket fraud. Why buy a ticket from a dude "with a connection" when you can go online and find your seat with the click of a button?

It won't completely kill ticket fraud, but it should help bring the process out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. Then shady dudes with questionable tickets won't have a place to peddle their wares, Kansas won't hemorrhage millions in ticket sales, and athletic directors won't have to spend as much time overseeing their ticket operations for fear of losing their jobs. Boosters can use the Internet, too! Everybody wins!

Well, except for the shady dudes. But they'll get over it, I'm sure.

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