If you see more than a few empty seats Monday night at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, don't blame Alabama fatigue.
Or Clemson fatigue.
Or anything other than the College Football Playoff overlords who decided for some reason that a place that doesn't really care for college football is a great place to put the biggest game of the season.
Game organizers likely are bracing for how the stands will look when Alabama and Clemson face off at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Because of support from corporations and the two schools, who are required to buy more than half the seats available, all the tickets should be sold.
Having actual rear ends in all the seats will be another matter. If there isn't a full crowd Monday night, it won't be the fault of Alabama and Clemson, whose fans are hard core but hardly unfamiliar with national championships.
In a basic search for tickets on the secondary market Thursday night, the cheapest ticket at Stubhub.com was in the 400-level upper deck for 118.75. Face-value price is $475. For a 200-level seat, which is $575 face value, the cheapest was $167.91.
TicketIQ showed the cheapest Alabama/Clemson ticket at $125, which is $4 less than the cheapest ticket listed for the Auburn/Oregon game in next season's opening week.
Last year, ESPN reported that the average Stubhub ticket for the Alabama/Georgia game in Atlanta sold for $2,319. Two years ago for the Alabama/Clemson game in Atlanta, the cheapest tickets were $1,700 the day of the game, which is when prices start falling.
The area just isn't that into college football, so game attendance is all on Alabama and Clemson. Locals aren't going to show up at this one.
Levi's Stadium has hosted the Pac-12 Championship Game since 2014 with less than encouraging results. When the game debuted there, the Pac-12 lucked out in getting Oregon (on its way to a national championship game appearance) against Arizona, then No. 8 in the rankings.
Oregon won 51-13 with the Ducks' Marcus Mariota capping a Heisman Trophy-winning season with a game MVP award.
But, the game drew only 45,618 to a stadium that seats about 68,500. This year's attendance was 35,134 for Washington's win over Utah, the lowest since moving to Levi's.
Can you imagine having that few people come to watch an SEC Championship Game? Or an ACC title game? Or Big Ten?
The Red Box Bowl, which matched Oregon and Michigan State on Monday, drew only 30,212 — less than half the stadium.
They do love their pro football out there. Santa Clara is about an hour's drive from San Francisco, and Levi's serves as the 49ers' home stadium. This year, the 49ers have averaged 69,148 a home game. Of the 32 NFL teams, only 11 averaged their capacity or more in attendance this year, and the 49ers were one of them.
But college football? Meh.
On top of that, the kickoff is set for 5 p.m. local time, and traffic is going to be beyond miserable. If you're going, there's no such thing as leaving too early for the stadium.
Also, it's not an attractive location to draw fans from across the country for a game like this. The flights are expensive and the hotel rooms are really expensive — and that's if you're staying in San Jose, which is about 10 minutes from Santa Clara. San Francisco can cost even more.
With that in mind, who can blame any Alabama fan who decided to enjoy a trip to the Orange Bowl in Miami and watch the title game on TV? Or a Clemson fan who traveled to Dallas and stayed home for the championship contest?
Kudos to the playoff committee for wishing to spread the wealth and move the game around the country, but if you want this game in California, why not Rose Bowl Stadium?
Locations are hit and miss for the future, too:
Next season (January 7, 2020) will be New Orleans. In 2021, it's Miami. Hurray to both.
But in 2022, it's Indianapolis. Then Los Angeles, then Houston.
Indy?!? At least it's in Big Ten country. Los Angeles (not Pasadena), meh. Houston, should be fine.
For this year, there are a lot of pluses for any fan staying home — no long plane ride, no traffic, no big credit-card bill to pay off later. And certainly the average Alabama fan will love this little bonus — with ESPN doing the game instead of CBS, there's no Gary Danielson.