Waco accountant Richard Kaga, 63, already has booked rooms in Denver, and made flight reservations to take him and three others to the NCAA Women?s Final Four basketball tournament the first week of April.
Now all he needs are a couple of tickets.
Kaga loves the Lady Bears and just knows they will win their way to the Final Four. He and his wife, Betty, and two close friends began planning this trip right after the team lost to Texas A&M during regionals last year.
He never dreamed that getting into the 19,028-seat Pepsi Center to watch the games would prove daunting. He is a member of the Baylor Bear Foundation and owned four season tickets to watch the 2011-12 Lady Bears.
But tickets to the biggest games in the Big Dance are proving more scarce than off-nights by junior post Brittney Griner.
If Baylor reaches the Final Four, it and three other teams will receive 700 tickets apiece to distribute as they wish.
The school can give each player up to four tickets. Others may go to the school?s traveling party, band members and administrators, leaving the balance for season-ticket holders and Bear Foundation members.
?We have requests and commitments for more than 700 tickets. So as things stand now, we will not have any go on sale to the public,? said Matt Johnson, assistant athletic director for ticket operations.
Because of Kaga?s longtime support of Baylor athletics, the school offered him the opportunity to apply for two tickets. He needed four, so he declined the invitation and is pursuing tickets through other sources.
?I don?t blame Baylor; I blame the NCAA for making so few tickets available to each team,? said Kaga, whose allegiance to the school goes back decades.
His parents had season tickets to Baylor football games beginning in the 1960s, and he has had season tickets to the Lady Bears since coach Kim Mulkey arrived in 2000.
The NCAA said Thursday that besides allocating 2,800 tickets to teams that reach the Final Four, it made more than 6,000 tickets available to the general public. They lasted about as long as an Odyssey Sims-led fast break.
Other tickets are set aside for corporate sponsors, NCAA officials and host-city invitees.
Still, there are websites and ticket-exchange outlets for fans willing to splurge.
?I?ve been going online, and I was surprised at just how many tickets there are out there. But be prepared to pay,? said De Ann Smith, executive director of a Baylor athletic support group called Bear Force One.
She said various sites were offering single tickets for $360, or a pair of tickets for $500 to $700. Smith said one offer that caught her attention was $1,700 for a single seat in the Pepsi Center?s lower level.
The face value of single tickets for the Final Four is $125 for the balcony, $150 for the club level and $185 for the lower level.
Tickets give fans seats for the two semifinal games April 1 and the championship April 3.
The website centextickets.com is offering three-game tickets for ?$400 and up,? according to a spokesman who asked that his name not be used. He said he is seeing more demand for Final Four women?s tickets than in the past.
?It?s probably because there is a team in this area trying to win it all and go undefeated,? said the spokesman, referring to the surging Lady Bears. ?I have a local customer base.?
?This is a great problem to have,? Smith said. ?I?m excited that Baylor has arrived at the point (where) tickets are a rarity.?
She added that a source told her prices for Final Four tickets may drop as teams get eliminated between now and April 1.
For example, she said, the Tennessee Volunteers, a perennial power, have made it to the Sweet 16 and are competing in the same Des Moines, Iowa, regional as Baylor. If Tennessee gets eliminated and has no chance to advance to Denver, Vols fans who had bought Final Four tickets likely will sell them for whatever they can get.
Rick Nixon, associate director with NCAA Championships and Alliances, said those desperate to attend the Final Four can visit PrimeSport.com, which is identified as the NCAA?s official ticket exchange site.
A visit there Thursday revealed several single tickets priced at $360. One seller was offering up to 11 tickets priced at $675 each, while another advertised six tickets for $1,260 apiece.
Nixon said the NCAA earmarked tickets for the organization in Denver planning to host the championship games. Fans can inquire about spares at www.denversports.org.
The NCAA, Nixon said, wants to host women?s Final Four games in arenas of ?NBA size.? The Pepsi Center serves as home to the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association.
And Texas A&M University won the title last year in the 18,165-seat Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., where the NBA?s Indiana Pacers play.
The Alamodome in San Antonio, a football stadium that can accommodate 39,500 for basketball, hosted the Final Four in 2010, when Baylor was eliminated by the Connecticut Huskies.
?We believe the NBA arenas are the right-size venue for our championship right now, in terms of the overall experience we want to provide the fans,? said the NCAA?s Nixon.
But fans like Waco?s Kaga said the smaller sites sometimes force ticket hunters to take desperate measures.
He secured two tickets for $500 from an individual selling online. He met another seller through Craigslist and made a similar deal for two more tickets, giving him the four he needed.
?But I got scammed,? he said. ?I sent the money via Western Union, though Craigslist clearly warns users not to do that. The deal sounded authentic. My money was supposed to go to an intermediary who would get the tickets released when my money arrived. I?ve heard nothing since.?
He said Western Union ?was sympathetic,? but it could do nothing to remedy the situation. Kaga said he agreed to share his story as a warning to use caution when pursuing tickets online.
?Now I need two more tickets,? he said. ?This was a setback, but we will be at that game.?
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