By Mike Gross, Sports Writer
Sunday News
Published: Sep 16, 2006 11:50 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - This is, at bottom, a story about supply and demand, or what happens to an economic market when demand overwhelms supply like a tsunami.

Given unlimited supply, how many tickets could have been sold to the Penn State-Notre Dame football game?

"Let's just say there's no stadium in the world with enough seats," Josh Berlo, Notre Dame's director of ticket operations, said Wednesday.

The game was the toughest ticket ever at Notre Dame Stadium, and you don't need to be a student of college football history to know that covers some ground.

Of the roughly 80,000 seats in Notre Dame Stadium, about 32,000 are available each game for ND alumni donors via a lottery. There were nearly 70,000 requests for those tickets.

Penn State was allotted 5,000 tickets and had about five times that many requests. If you weren't a member of the Nittany Lion Club of some standing, a longtime donor, you had no shot.

Unless you're a Penn State student. Then you had a tiny shot. An online lottery for 250 student tickets for current Penn State students drew 3,534 applications.

There are other options, widely known by most people who attend big-time sports events. Despite the best efforts of ticket and security departments of major college and pro teams, tickets are out there.

Ticket brokers acquire them, and sell them for market, rather than face, value. Travel agencies put together package trips to games that include tickets.

Tickets are auctioned off on Internet portals like, auction sites like eBay.

Many fans — reportedly including entire busloads from Pennsylvania for Penn State-Notre Dame — routinely travel to games without tickets.

They know tickets will be available at the site from scalpers, folks who make money by buying or otherwise procuring tickets to major sports events and then reselling them at market price.

The issue is by no means limited to college sports

The Philadelphia Eagles announced early last week they would sell standing room tickets to today's game with the New York Giants starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. By Monday SRO tickets, apparently phony, were showing up on the Internet, at $187 apiece.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the Eagles sold their remaining individual-game tickets for this season in a matter of minutes last June.

Within days the tickets showed up on the Web site, an Eagles advertising partner, marked up 200 percent or more.

Colleges seem more sensitive to that sort of thing than the pros, since they depend so heavily on alumni/donors and are determined to keep them happy.

The Notre Dames and Penn States try to keep close tabs on who's supposed to get game tickets. So where do all the open-market tickets come from?

"As you look at resale, there's a certain percentage that's outright fraud," Berlo explained.

"Brokers purchase from someone who has access. Some come from the visiting team, and there is a subset of the Notre Dame family that chooses not to do the right thing. We try to find those people and get their tickets to people who will go to the game."

Berlo said this football season, Notre Dame has found about 800 resold tickets. Of those, it stopped about 400 before they shipped.

In each case Notre Dame refunded the buyer and resold the tickets to season-ticket lottery losers.

Whether the original seller finds out about it or not, you're taking a chance when you buy a ticket from some guy in a parking lot. Ticket fraud is a fairly large and sophisticated business. That business apparently had a profitable day at Penn State-Notre Dame

"They had a major problem out there last week," Bud Meredith, Penn State's director of ticket operations, said Wednesday.

"Bogus tickets out the wazoo."

Berlo acknowledged that “we have received numerous recent reports of fraudulent ticket offerings and scams.

"Based on the record level of demand for this season, con artists are leveraging it to trick people into paying for, or putting deposits on, tickets they do not have."

A sizable number of fans evidently bought fake tickets for real seats. Each ticket had a bar code, but Notre Dame doesn't routinely scan bar codes as ticket holders enter the stadium.

So fans got into the stadium with bogus tickets. When those people got to their seats and found them occupied, or sat down in them and then were confronted by the rightful seat holders ...

"A lot of people were pretty irate," Meredith said.

In addition to the bar code, Notre Dame tickets have a hologram of an overlapping N and D.

So did the fakes.

"I saw some of them; they were good fakes," Meredith said. “Good enough that it would be hard for the average person to pick up on."

How do you spot a scam?

"Is it too good to be true?" said Berlo.

"Were you solicited via a spam e-mail or online blog or chat room? Does it involve a wire transfer or money order? Does it involve a foreign country? Is it on an Internet auction Web site?"

"If you answered yes to any of those questions, chances are it is a scam or may involve invalid or stolen tickets."

Meredith said he believes such scams are harder to pull off at Penn State home games.

Penn State has about 70,000 season-ticket holders, not counting the 21,000 student season-ticket holders. Beaver Stadium seats about 107,000.

Every seat has a bar-coded ticket, and the bar code is scanned before the holder enters the stadium.

Further, Penn State has turned over management of its athletic ticket operation to TicketMaster, which allows season-ticket holders who don't want to go to a game to post the tickets online, where they are sold at face value. Tickets can also be forwarded, online, to ticket holders' family and friends.

The Penn State lottery for student tickets for the Notre Dame game was done by student ID number, and the tickets could only be picked up by the student with the matching ID, and only at Notre Dame Stadium on game day.

There is probably no security measure, no system, so foolproof that this problem will ever fully go away.

Saturday's Notre Dame-Michigan game was the second-toughest ticket in Notre Dame history.

On last week, tickets were on sale for as much as $3,500.

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