By R.L. Bynum
When you match Carolina and Duke in a national semifinal, ticket demand and the prices on the secondary markets are going to soar.
Getting Final Four tickets through UNC this time has been the most challenging in years for many Rams Club members who have regularly traveled to cheer on the Tar Heels.
Rams Club member Jimi Harrison of Chapel Hill, a 1978 Carolina graduate, has never seen anything like it.
“Carolina-Duke, plus two New Orleans championships pushed the demand through the roof,” said Harrison, who got a ticket. “This is the 11th Final Four for me and none have ever been like this on ticket demand.”
Carolina got requests from Rams Club for 8,000 tickets but the NCAA only allotted each school 3,397 non-student tickets. The school distributed tickets to Rams Club members only after allotting tickets to the families of the players, coaches and staff. Seven thousand UNC students entered a lottery to get 700 student tickets.
Greg Cauley of Kinston, a 1976 UNC graduate and longtime Rams Club member, got tickets for himself but getting extra tickets was more challenging than for the previous 10 Final Fours he’s attended.
“I spent some time sweating just a little between ordering on Monday and getting the confirmation around 10:30 on Tuesday night that my request had been fulfilled,” said Cauley, who hasn’t missed a home basketball game (except for the COVID season) since February 1983 and has attended every home football game since 1972, and all but five road games since 1995.
Gary Paczesny, UNC’s assistant athletic director for creative services and athletics communications, said that his understanding is that the number of students seeking tickets was larger than for previous Final Fours.
The non-student tickets cost $206 per session and the student tickets are $40. That student ticket is only good for Saturday’s semifinals and Monday night’s championship game if the Tar Heels advance.
UNC students will be in another part of the Superdome for the Kansas-Villanova game, then sit behind one of the baselines for the Carolina-Duke game. Traditionally, the sightlines from those student seats aren’t very good because there is no slope from one row of seats to another.
David Worlock, the NCAA’s director of media coordination and statistics, said the school ticket allotment is in line with previous years.
Clearly, demand has increased, though. The requests are fulfilled based on Rams Club priority points.
“That’s based on giving levels and what tickets they buy,” Paczesny said. “It’s the same formula they use with seat selections at the Smith Center at Kenan.”
Harrison got coveted tickets through UNC even though she didn’t qualify under the Rams Club ranking system.
“It’s good to have kind friends with a higher priority level in the Rams Club that could not attend this year,” said Harrison, who will attend games with her sister Vicki.
Rams Club members unable to secure tickets through UNC and other Tar Heels fans have had to deal with soaring prices on secondary markets. At ticket-selling websites, session tickets were available Wednesday for less than $400 but those seats are in the upper part of the stadium.
“It sounds like travel to New Orleans is a pretty difficult feat for a lot of people just trying to obtain flights,” Paczesny said. “With two teams here the Triangle, you have half of your Final Four field, the fans basically leaving from the same airport. So, flights from RDU to New Orleans seem to be pretty scarce.”
Supporting the Tar Heels in New Orleans is clearly pricey!
At Superdome, New Orleans
Saturday’s national semifinals
No. 2 Villanova (30–7) vs. No. 1 Kansas (32–6), 6:09, TBS
No. 2 Duke (32–6) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (28–9), 40 minutes after first semifinal, TBS
Semifinal winners, 9:20, TBS
Photo via @UNC_Basketball