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THE HOT TICKET IF YOU DON'T HAVE 'EM, BE PREPARED TO SHELL OUT AT LEAST $1,000.

Byline: Josh Kleinbaum Staff Writer

When Todd Condo's father refused to pay his tuition to USC 15 years ago, Condo rebelled. He dropped out of Eagle Rock High School 10 weeks before graduation, determined to show dad he didn't need his help.

After working in car dealerships and moving to Texas for a few years, he went back to school in 1998, first at Los Angeles City College and then at the University of Southern California. He graduated in 2003, but the resentment toward his father lingered.

``It's time to bury the hatchet,'' Condo said Thursday. ``I want to take him to the Rose Bowl and watch USC romp Texas with him.''

One problem - like everybody else in Los Angeles and the Lone Star State, Condo needs tickets to Wednesday's BCS Championship game between No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas.

Less than a week before kickoff, the market for Rose Bowl tickets - face value $175 - remains obscenely hot. Cheap seats in the end zone are going on eBay, StubHub.com and other ticket brokerage sites for about $1,000 each. Want to sit on the 50-yard line? Expect to pay four or five times that much.

``The fact of the matter is, people have been wanting to see this game for the whole year,'' said Sean Pate, spokesman for StubHub.com. ``The BCS got it right. You have Heisman Trophy winners, Heisman Trophy candidates. (Ticket prices) have been in the same neighborhood as Super Bowl tickets.''

Not only are tickets expensive, they've been tough to find. Lucky USC and Texas season-ticket holders got them through the schools. At USC, student and season-ticket holders had to win a lottery, unless they were athletic department donors.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association sold 500 tickets to Pasadena residents in early December - and had 1,600 residents try to buy them. About 1,000 tickets were sold through Ticketmaster, but they were gone in about two minutes.

For most fans, that left such sites as eBay, StubHub.com and craigslist.

``We tried all the traditional methods - telling our friends, asking everybody we knew, entering contests,'' said Peggy Little, a Texas alum who is flying to Los Angeles from Austin for the game. ``We even wrote a song for a radio station. We did everything we could without paying an arm, a leg and our first-born child.''

Thursday, Peggy and her husband, David, broke down and bought four tickets on eBay for $3,850.

``When talking about all this crazy money, it's like, what do you make money for if not for stuff like this?'' David Little said. ``It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal.''

Eighty percent of the tickets sold on StubHub have come from buyers in Texas or Southern California. In Los Angeles, fans have it easy - they only have to brave the freeways and parking. Fans from Texas, though, are traveling halfway across the country hoping to see their team's first national championship since 1970.

Texas alum Brad Beutel sold his tickets on eBay because he couldn't find a flight from Austin that arrived by kickoff. Sarah Miller, a Texas fan, is flying in from Washington, D.C., even though she doesn't have a ticket.

``I told myself I wasn't going to go,'' Miller said. ``Now, a week out, I decided that if I miss it I will regret it forever.

``I've never seen tickets this expensive, and I've been to (Atlantic Coast Conference) championship basketball, the Rose Bowl last year, lots of high-end sporting events. I've never seen anything like this.''

On eBay, those searching for tickets have plenty of choices, at a cost. Two seats near the 50-yard line have an opening bid of $5,999 for the pair, although nobody had bid as of Thursday. Two seats on the 30-yard line sold for $3,451.99 for the pair. Parking passes were selling for more than $100.

And at StubHub, four seats on the 50 sold for $4,286 - each.

``Interest has been huge from corporate America,'' said Mitch Borger, CEO of the Tournament Association. ``I've heard people tell me they decided not to do their big corporate events at the Super Bowl and decided to do it at the Rose Bowl instead because some people think the Super Bowl is not in a particularly attractive location'' in Detroit.

Borger had to fend off distant acquaintances searching for tickets. Wednesday, the mother of an old elementary-school friend called.

``I haven't talked to them in 40 years,'' Borger said. ``I don't have any tickets left. I haven't had tickets for weeks.''

Borger warned fans to be wary of counterfeit tickets when buying through secondary sources and to make sure the seller has some sort of guarantee. Valid tickets should have holograms on the back that are difficult to duplicate, he said.

A USC alum named Doug has been playing the ticket market. He bought eight on eBay at low prices and is trying to resell four of them. If it works out, he'll end up paying $1,600 for four seats - a steal in this market.

``It's insane,'' Doug said. ``I wouldn't be paying $2,000 a ticket. I don't understand it. Especially if you're from Texas, because I think they're going to lose.'' In Thursday's line, USC was favored by 7 1/2 points.

With the game approaching, those without tickets are hoping for a miracle. They're counting on ticket brokers realizing they're asking too much, and that the seller's market will swing to the buyer.

Condo is hoping someone will take pity on him so he can rekindle his relationship with his father while watching USC win its third consecutive national championship. He only has $750 to spend on two tickets - far below current market value.

``I tried to go to Ticketmaster when they had a few left. I was waiting at 8 a.m. but I couldn't get through,'' he said. ``It's just been incredibly difficult. It sucks.''

Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669

josh.kleinbaum(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) #1 USC TROJANS - #2 TEXAS LONGHORNS

Fans from USC and Texas who are still without tickets are hoping for a miracle as some brokers are asking as much as $5,999 for a pair of Rose Bowl seats.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

Raul Roa/Staff Photographer

(3 -- color) Head coach Pete Carroll and USC are getting ready to take on Texas at the Rose Bowl amid soaring ticket prices for the game.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) no caption (Rose Bowl tickets)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 30, 2005
Words:1090
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