Imagine you were dating somebody a lot smarter, prettier and wealthier than you for a moment (maybe you already are). Now, imagine you had all of these plans of things you were going to do and buy with this person you are dating. Then, just before you are about to go on a cruise to the Bahamas, that person dumps you for someone that can offer them more than you can. You then kick and scream and demand that the vacation still take place even though the breakup is official.
From an economic standpoint, that is exactly what happened when Notre Dame tried to cancel this year’s Arizona State game in Tempe due to the scheduling agreement the Irish have with the ACC. Arizona State needs this Notre Dame game in the worst way.
Arizona State associate athletic director of media relations, Mark Brand, explained why the school refused to allow Notre Dame to back out of its original agreement by saying: “You couldn’t replace Notre Dame. You could probably get someone to play, but you’re not going to replace the prestige of Notre Dame. It’s impossible.”
Any college football fan or member of the media who attempts to justify calling Notre Dame irrelevant because they have not won a national championship since 1988 needs to look into this Saturday’s matchup between Notre Dame and Arizona State a little closer. The Super Bowl is coming to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. this February, but when Notre Dame comes into town Saturday, Tempe will get the closest resemblance to a Super Bowl atmosphere since the Cowboys beat the Steelers in Sun Devil Stadium in 1996.
The time of the Notre Dame-Arizona State game on Saturday is set for 1:30 local time in Arizona in order to be featured on ABC’s national coverage. This will be the Sun Devils’ first day game all year, and they can thank Notre Dame for that. The Sun Devils haven’t had a complete sellout all season, but this game is sold out even with increased ticket prices — they can thank Notre Dame for that. If Arizona State can win on Saturday they will become immediate and legitimate playoff contenders, and they would thank Notre Dame for that as well.
Individual Notre Dame tickets were never made available for sale directly through Arizona State’s athletic department. Instead, the Sun Devils decided to cash in on Notre Dame’s fanfare by forcing fans to either purchase season tickets or a mini-game package that required fans to buy tickets to the Washington State game as well in order to see the school with 11 national championships and seven Heisman winners.
Forcing fans to buy tickets to other games when attempting to purchase a marquee game like Notre Dame is a ploy Arizona State used in 2007 when Georgia was ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls and Arizona State was coming off a successful 10-3 season. That Georgia team featured Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green who came into Tempe and throttled Arizona State 27-10 in front of a lot visitors from Georgia who painted Sun Devil Stadium red and black. It should be noted that the previous week, Arizona State was upset by UNLV and therefore, the excitement and hype surrounding the game was taken away.
Arizona State doesn’t sell their stadium out too often even though they have been in the top 25 for the better part of the past two seasons. Even in last year’s Pac 12 Championship game at Sun Devil Stadium against Stanford with a bid to their first Rose Bowl bid since 1997 on the line, there were still roughly 1,000 unsold tickets. Sun Devil fans can get a ticket for the Washington State game on Nov. 22 for just $27. Conversely, Notre Dame tickets through secondary markets like stubhub are selling for an average of $217 according to SeatGeek. The average secondary market price from that Stanford game last December was just $96.
The Arizona State athletic department needed this game badly due to the fact that renovations for Sun Devil Stadium will be taking place following the 2014 football season. The university is paying for the project by committing $210 million of the University’s money and is seeking $50 million from donations and fundraisers. Had the Irish been taken off the schedule, these plans would likely look drastically different.
Matt Heinz is a college football writer for Rantsports.com Follow him on Twitter @MattHeinz_Rant