(Editor's note: The following piece is NOT intended to be an editorial representing the opinion of the entire B5Q staff or community. The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those shared by other B5Q writers.)
On Sunday night, the University of Wisconsin-Madison put 5,800 student-tickets up for sale after the Wisconsin Badgers football team was invited to the Rose Bowl. Unsurprisingly, the Wisconsin students bought their allotment of bowl tickets in less than 20 minutes. Why wouldn't they? The Badgers haven't been to the Rose Bowl since 2000, and what half-frozen Wisconsinite wouldn't want to take a mini-vacation to Pasadena during winter break?
However, what should have been a simple sale of bowl game tickets erupted into controversy. One of Wisconsin's student-run newspapers, The Badger Herald, published the names of 34 students who were caught trying to sell their newly acquired tickets on Facebook under the headline "The Worst People on Campus." Some of these students were attempting to scalp their ticket for as much as $400 within two hours of the end of the sale. The Herald also requested readers to submit the names of other students attempting to scalp their Rose Bowl ticket. The story has gone national: On the ESPN show "Around The Horn," Denver-based columnist Woody Paige mentioned the controversy after winning Monday's show, and websites such as the Huffington Post and CNBC have discussed The Badger Herald's "Black List" and the practice of ticket scalping.
In the Herald's article, the editorial staff said something that has received a lot of attention from the media outlets that have picked up the story:
"Truly, there is a special place in Hell for people who buy Rose Bowl tickets with the sole intention of profiting from them. It is entirely unfair to those who actually love this football team and were counting on a cheap face value ticket in order to make the trip to Pasadena an economic reality."
As much as some of the infuriated commenters on the Herald's website would hate to hear it, The Badger Herald was right to call out these students who had no intention of going to the Rose Bowl. I understand that the process of scalping student tickets to Badger games is long-standing, and it has been aided by the growth of social networking sites like Facebook and Craigslist. Students sell tickets for above face value all the time, including this year's marquee matchup with Ohio State. One area that I take issue with the Herald is their original decision to insist on ridiculing the named students. Thankfully, they have seen that error and attempted to address the problems faced by the named students. Despite the Herald's original mistakes, they have wandered into a major issue nonetheless. The true question is not whether the named students were breaking the law in trying to scalp their tickets. What people (including me) are asking is whether or not scalping a student-section Rose Bowl ticket is ethical.
Look, I get it. Times are tough. The rational, economically sensible thing to do is to sell an extra ticket to the Rose Bowl to the highest bidder, hopefully taking care of some of the numerous expenses that accompany traveling all the way to Pasadena for a bowl game. However, as a college football fan I like to think that some things are too sacred to justify scalping a ticket, especially one intended for a student. As a UW-Madison student, I would do almost anything to be able to go with the team to such a historic event, and I am sure that I am not alone in that feeling. By purchasing an extra ticket with the sole intention of earning a profit from the sale, Rose Bowl student ticket scalpers are just as bad (if not worse) than students who do the same thing for a full season of football tickets. The practice of buying a Rose Bowl ticket with no plans to use it other than raffling it off for a little extra spending money only serves to deprive another loyal Badger fan from a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There are many Badger fans that were counting on getting a (relatively) cheap student ticket so they could afford a trip to see their team play in the most prestigious bowl game in the history of college football. Unfortunately for some of them, not only were tickets sold to people who have no intention of going to the game, but now those people are trying to sell their ticket for almost triple the face value of $150. This is unconscionable. Much more deserving Badger fans and fellow students should not be treated this way. Ultimately, and despite its original mistakes, I agree with The Badger Herald that exploiting the passion of fellow Badger fans is reprehensible.
Another question needs to be asked, however. What can the University of Wisconsin do to fix this problem in the future?
Fortunately the answer is pretty simple, and The Badger Herald has provided a workable solution. The University of Wisconsin should have tickets for the Rose Bowl available for pickup at the bowl site, and not half a month in advance. Distributing tickets so early only serves to aid the scalpers. According to Darren Rovell of CNBC, other universities have been distributing tickets at the bowl site for years, and the University of Wisconsin should follow suit next time.
For the time being, if you have a student ticket to the Rose Bowl and are planning on selling it, I implore you to sell it at face value. Give fellow Badger fans a fair opportunity to attend The Granddaddy of Them All.