Gators tickets hard to come by

Early edition

Published December 12, 2006

GAINESVILLE — In nearly 25 years working in the ticket office at Florida, Bill Holloway has been through two national championship games and seven SEC title games.

He knows firsthand how big games can generate ticket demand, but it all pales in comparison to the demand for the 2007 BCS national championship game.

Florida will play Ohio State on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., and getting a ticket will take major dollars.

“This is probably the top of the heap, no question,” said Holloway, Florida’s assistant athletic director/ticket manager. “This, without question, has been the most in-demand game we’ve had in my tenure here.”

The problem is simply one of supply vs. demand.

Florida and Ohio State each received an allotment of 16,000 tickets. Of those, 2,250 tickets were set aside for Florida students, players and band members and 1,500 were allotted for the official traveling party, coaches, staff, sponsors, university guests, University Athletic Board of Directors and the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee.

The remaining 12,250 tickets, at a price of $175 plus a $5 handling charge, were made available for sale to Gator boosters. The UF ticket office received orders for nearly 21,500 tickets and 9,214 were unable to be filled and the money was refunded.

Skipp and Joyce Fraser were among those left out. The Pinellas Point residents and 20-year Florida season ticket-holders were able to purchase SEC championship tickets but were unsure of their chances to get tickets to the biggest game of all.

With plane reservation deadlines looming, they called the UF ticket office Friday and found out they hadn’t made the cut.

“The letter came in the mail (Monday),” Joyce Fraser said from her home Tuesday. “It was very nicely written, but still the result was the same.”

They weren’t getting tickets. And they are not alone.

Everybody is on the hunt. Florida players said Monday their phones haven’t stopped ringing with friends and family seeking tickets. Even Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley admits he’s had requests he can’t fulfill.

Those who purchased tickets are bound by two things: money and time associated with the university.

Tickets were sold based on the UAA ticket points system: one point for every $100 ever contributed to Gator Boosters, and one-half point for each consecutive year as a season ticket holder. Money quickly outpaces longevity.

Those with the most points may buy up to eight tickets, but even some Bull Gators, the more than 720 members who contribute $12,000 or more annually, had their allotment cut.

“There are people who have been season ticket holders for 30-35 years, who didn’t get tickets,” Holloway said.

“And there were those who got SEC tickets that didn’t get these. The points system that we had to refund for the SEC game was 126 points or less; this one went up to 200.75 points that got refunded. So it was a little more because there was more demand. Some boosters who didn’t even apply for the SEC tickets, applied for the national championship tickets.”

Holloway said it’s difficult to be forced to turn so many fans away.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We only get a certain number and we have to satisfy the Gator booster party system. We have followed it for many, many years and we have not deviated. It’s all tied into contribution. But this was probably the first time some of our season ticket holders have been (negatively) affected.”

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.