Remember the joke about the billionaire who told a friend that if he had to ask the price of a Cadillac or yacht he couldn't afford one? That's how it is when you try to run down the costs for NCAA Final Four basketball tickets of the distant past.
People then, as now, were so obsessed with just getting into the hall that they paid no attention to the loot they surrendered. Scalpers existed then, too, and sometimes people shelled out as much as (gasp!) $15 to $25 for a showdown seat.
Surely there is some string-saver who never throws anything away who may have ticket stubs from Kansas University involvement in Final Four activities in 1952, '53 and '57. I've even had the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis trying to run it down. No luck. Called the business and media offices at KU and North Carolina, and folks who might have saved something to document the tariff. Blotto. If you have ANYTHING, let me know.
This year's one-person, two-night Final Four package in Atlanta, says the NCAA, is in the $150-175 range, and you had to order the package. Not surprisingly, the "sold out" sign has long been up. Lots of local people are planning to go, furtively figuring their Jayhawks somehow will get past the first round, for a change, and run the table. No limit to what scalpers and even legitimate ticket brokers will rake in.
There was little deep interest in the '52 Final Four in distant Seattle when Kansas prevailed over Santa Clara and St. John's to win the title in Washington's Edmundson Arena. No flurry for ducats, which may have had a face value as low as $10. The '68 Super Bowl football seats peaked at $12.
In 1953, KU reached the finals in Kansas City before falling to Indiana, 69-68. Municipal Auditorium held 10,500 (11,000 if safety people looked away), and there were countless KU zealots ready to pay the price, maybe even as much as $15 non-scalp.
Then came 1957 and the title game that did more than any other to brand the NCAA Tourney big-time - local darling Kansas with a 23-2 record, No. 1-rated North Carolina, with a 30-0. There was a huge uproar because NCAA policy dictated only a 250-ticket allotment for each of the four schools in the meet - and thousands of KU faithful wanted to watch in person. You can bet the scalpers got fat, sometimes drawing as much as $30, a lot of money then. But so far I haven't been able to find a single verification of the actual pasteboard price.
2006-07 Feb. 22 KU hoops presser
Still with '57, the saving grace for the March 23, Saturday night titanic was that television had advanced enough to let Channels 9 and 13 project grainy black and white images. The immortal Frank Burge had 10 sets lined up in the Kansas Union. Only radio carried Kansas' semifinal victory over San Francisco on Friday night.
KU-Carolina complimentary footnote: Some call the '79 title game matching Magic Johnson and Larry Bird the ice-breaker for college claims that the tournament is the nation's No. 1 sporting event. Horse apples! The largest tourney media group to date was in '57. There was an 11-station TV network, and it was the first time a game had been tubed in Carolina. There were 64 newspaper writers and live radio broadcasts on 73 stations in 11 states. THAT, folks, was the breakthrough.
One dear lady happened to have a ticket stub from KU's 1986 Final Four trip to Dallas. Forty-six bucks for the two-night package. But Jayhawkers would pay then as they do now almost any amount with little or no regard to affordability.
Are KU fans devoted or what?