Political football? La. legislators catch perk on college playoff tickets

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — The LSU football Tigers aren’t the only ones from Louisiana hoping to occupy the end zone during next month’s BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.

Forty-four state legislators accepted a chance to buy end zone tickets for face value — $600 each — before they appeared on the secondary market. Similar tickets currently cost more than $2,000 online.

Louisiana lawmakers have spent decades enjoying the “face-value” ticket perk for LSU bowl games, though the Tigers’ undefeated stretch has heightened the allure.

“I really hope we all can take a look at it and realize how special this season has been,” said state Sen. Rick Ward (R-Port Allen), an LSU alumnus.

All but 11 of the state’s 144 legislators have taken the offer for at least one postseason football game this year, either through the New Orleans host committee or LSU.

“The process for lawmakers is similar to the one we use for season ticket holders,” LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told BRProud.com in a statement Wednesday. “Toward the end of the season, a ticket portal is emailed out and they select which potential bowl destination they would like to purchase two face-value tickets for. Once LSU is invited to a particular game, we assign tickets and do the ticket allocations.”

When LSU last played the national championship game in 2012, all but three legislators bought end zone tickets at face value, then $350. The Tigers lost that game to the University of Alabama, 21-0.

Legislators who do not attend the games often give the tickets to constituents or charities.

“I understand there may be folks who don’t particularly love the fact that legislators have the ability to get these tickets early on,” Ward said. “But there are all sorts of things they’re used for.”

LSU has used the arrangement to bridge government ties and give state lawmakers front-row access to a prized public investment. (LSU is the largest university funded through the state’s $30 billion operating budget.)

“Dating back to the creation of [Louisiana’s] most recent constitution, delegates say their biggest debates were about higher education,” said author Jeremy Alford, whose upcoming book describes the state’s 1973 Constitutional Convention. “Today, they say, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to be lobbied by Mike the Tiger.'”

LSU administrators have not signaled plans to end its legislative ticket offerings.

“If they see opportunities to curry favor with legislators, legally, then they’ll do it,” Alford said. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing with this.”

The BCS National Championship Game will be Jan. 13. State representatives and senators hoping to attend will only get the face-value seats if LSU beats the University of Oklahoma on Dec. 28.

Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to watch the college football season’s final game from a suite the Superdome offers to Louisiana governors.

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