It might only be the beginning of summer, but it's time to start thinking about travel plans for the college football season. Which away games will you go to? How about the postseason? If you're fortunate enough to have the option, will you go to one playoff game or two? Oh yeah, what about a conference championship game?

These are all legitimate questions that you'll have to answer if your team is in the position to make a run at the first College Football Playoff national championship. Ultimately, though, you really won't have much choice at all. It'll come down to the amount of money in your bank account.

Let's set aside the dilemma of sports pricing out the fans and look strictly at this year's inaugural playoff.

With twice as many teams getting the chance to play for a national championship, there's renewed faith for fans across the country. That's a big positive. More people are thinking about the opportunity to witness their favorite school play on the biggest stage.

But how will you get tickets? Thanks to a reservation system, everyone has the opportunity to access face value tickets to the game at AT&T Stadium in North Texas next January. Now the bad news: access isn't cheap.

The Team Tix system has been set up as a market to buy and sell reservations based on simple supply and demand principles. With a finite number of reservations available, the price goes up and down depending on how many are available. That won't really affect you if your team is a fringe top 25 team with a long shot to make the playoffs. It's not that it won't happen but rather that very few people will purchase the reservations, which keeps the price low.

Now, if you are pulling for one of the favorites (Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Auburn), the cost of a reservation might even top the actual price of the ticket. That might not seem too crazy until you realize that face value is $450 PER TICKET.

Let's not jump to total cost quite yet. First, I want to explain the reservation system for those that have never used it (it's only been around for about five years for BCS games).

As a buyer, you have the option to purchase three different reservations: 400 Level Corner, 400 Level Goal Line, 200 Level Corner. The price of each increases in that same order as the seats get better. Keep in mind that there isn't an option for seats from goal line to goal line, which are clearly the best seats in the stadium. These are all of the seats that will typically be last to go on the secondary market.

Once you've selected the seats you'd prefer, you can reserve between 1 and 6 seats for the market value plus a 10% transaction fee. This non-refundable purchase allows you the opportunity to buy national championship tickets if, and only if, the team you picked plays in the game. If they don't make it, you lose everything you spent. It's a risk/reward scenario that gives access to fans that might not otherwise have it.

But is it worth the cost?

For the sake of this story, let's use Alabama as the example. As one of the heavy favorites to make the playoff, reservations have already been bought up quickly. At the time of this story, you had these three options:

  1. $195 per reservation for 400 Level Corner
  2. $274 per reservation for 400 Level Goal Line
  3. $499 per reservation for 200 Level Corner

Again, this doesn't even include the price of the ticket. So here's what each option would cost you to reserve four tickets (before the $450/ticket face value cost).

  1. $858 for 400 Level Corner
  2. $1,205.60 for 400 Level Goal Line
  3. $2,195.60 for 200 Level Corner

The good news is that you would guarantee yourself a ticket to the game should the Crimson Tide get there. But if you're a glass-half-empty type of person, you'll realize that that's a huge financial risk for below-average seats.

Now, here's what the total cost would be if Alabama played for another national championship:

  1. $2,658 for 400 Level Corner ($664.50 per ticket)
  2. $3,005.60 for 400 Level Goal Line ($751.40 per ticket)
  3. $3,995.60 for 200 Level Corner ($998.90 per ticket)

If you're an Alabama fan, you'd be hard-pressed to justify buying a reservation. If you've attended any of the previous championship games Alabama appeared in, you've seen that tickets can be purchased outside the stadium for those same prices without the risk of losing all of your reservation money. Sure, face value tickets are higher this year (and absurdly so I might add), but there's a high likelihood that you'll find tickets for less than $1,000 each.

Obviously, every other reservation in the market will be cheaper than this, which lessens a lot of the risk, but the same risk-reward discussion will apply for each team. Just look at the cost breakdown for the cheapest possible 4-ticket reservation:

  1. $90 reservation + $1,8000 tickets = $1,890 ($472.50 per ticket) for 400 Level Corner
  2. $308 + $1,800 = $2,108 ($527 per ticket) for 400 Level Goal Line
  3. $572 + $1,800 = $2,372 ($593 per ticket) for 200 Level Corner

Fandom will often override fiscal responsibility for this rare opportunity, so these 'lower' prices might be worth the risk for some people. But it's hard to fathom that we have reached a point where 'rock-bottom' prices for the worst seat in a stadium are nearly $500.

The College Football Playoffs might be better for the sport and a stronger identifier of national champions, but you better believe it will have a bigger impact on fans. Attending a championship game might now mean sacrificing every other trip to see your favorite team during the season. That's definitely the decision many people will have to make this and every summer.

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