Basketball Fans Scramble To Make Travel Plans

SPOKANE — The NCAA tournament gets underway this week, and devoted fans of the Washington State Cougars and Gonzaga Bulldogs are now scrambling to make travel plans to Denver, Colorado and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The problem is, if you want to follow the Cougs to Denver or the Zags to Raleigh, you’re going to be paying big bucks to see your favorite team in post-season play.

The first problem is getting tickets to the games. At this point, neither university is selling tickets.  You can find them online on Stubhub, for example, where tickets were running about $100 for the Zags game against Davidson and $90 for the match-up between the Cougs and Winthrop. If the teams make it to the second round of the tournament, expect those tickets costs to increase.

While game tickets might be pricey, now that the first round bracket of the NCAA tournament has been set costs for traveling to Raleigh and Denver isn’t going to come cheap. For example on Travelocity a round trip ticket to Raleigh cost just over $700 with a long day of flying including several layovers.

As for getting to Denver, round trip air fares were only slightly cheaper getting to the Mile High City at an average of $550. Throw in a hotel room and a rental car – if you can find one still available – and you’re looking at roughly $1,200 for one basketball game. That hefty pricetag doesn’t include food or any other necessities.

However for many diehard fans the expense is worth the chance to see the Cougs and the Zags in the NCAA tournament.

One of those diehard fans is Gonzaga student Ben Folger, who made a fast break for his computer as soon as the brackets were filled on Sunday.

“About four o’clock the selection show ended we all knew we were going to do it,” Folger said.

‘Doing it’ means Folger and two of his friends will travel almost 3,000 miles to Raleigh to see their Zags. Although getting tickets to the game they feared wouldn’t be a slam dunk as last year the competition for NCAA tickets was steep.

“People were being turned down left and right because it was on the west coast and more people can afford it,” Folger said.

However Folger and his friends were in luck this year as by early Monday afternoon the trio were the only three students so far to take the plunge. Gonzaga Associate Athletic Director Dennis Kalina admits tickets for this year’s NCAA tournament aren’t selling as fast as they have in the past…

“This has been the first time since 2001 that we’ve been shipped out of the west coast,” Kalina said. “It’s kind of thrown our fans a little out of the loop.”

Kalina says when you factor the distance, the price for airfare and it’s all happening on Easter weekend, many fans had to rethink their decision to follow the team. Despite the price and the distance and slower than normal ticket sales, Gonzaga’s ticket office anticipates selling all 350 of the tickets it was allotted and doesn’t plan on offering any of them to the general public.

Ben Folger already has his tickets and says he’ll be celebrating Easter praying for a Gonzaga victory and a second trip to the Sweet 16.

“We love college basketball,” Folger said.