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Our View: Students without tickets burned in Coach Prime’s light

University of Colorado Boulder football coach Deion Sanders has sure brought the razzle-dazzle to college football. And Sanders is delivering. With his stellar resume as a Hall of Fame cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys and elsewhere, plus his stint as a baseball player for the Atlanta Braves, Coach Prime knows how to win. And we like to win.

Sanders’ luminous presence is bringing abundance to anything within the sphere of his aura. His sunglasses deal alone with eyewear company Blenders received $1.2 million in pre-orders within one day of announcing its collaboration design.

But under Sanders, the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Saturday evolved into a mini-Superbowl at Folsom Field. We’re not so crazy about that. In addition to ESPN’s College Gameday, Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff and CBS’s “60 Minutes” were in Boulder for the big game. Rapper Lil Wayne performed and guests, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, joined the party Sanders brought to town.

It was all a little too shiny.

Pre-glitterati, we’re reminiscent of what used to be, what now seems low-key, retro game-day festivities for students. Tailgate parties, pep rallies, marching bands and cheer teams on sunny autumn days. What Fort Lewis College students experience now. Although, they likely wouldn’t turn down Lil Wayne.

Talk about changing the game, sadly, most students from both CU and Colorado State University who wanted to attend the Showdown couldn’t get – or afford – tickets. Sanders should use his position to do something about this, even if it means passing on some profits. Or maybe the Rock could spring for a row of student seats. In fact, A-list guests’ entry fees could include paying for tickets set aside for students because attending athletic events is significant for college kids.

In Sanders’ aggressive use of the transfer portal, the Buffaloes received an extreme makeover for a winning team. But Sanders’ stardom resulted in the meteoric rise in ticket prices and difficulty in securing tickets for students, effectively shutting out fans closest to their teams.

After CU’s 36-14 whipping of Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sept. 9, which had an estimated $17 million economic impact in Boulder, VividSeats reported prices for the Showdown shot up 20% overnight. Tickets on Ticketmaster started at $171 plus fees, with the average get-in price of $201. That’s a lot for students.

Normally, CSU offers what it calls “free” student tickets for all home games and events. (Free usually means tickets were covered in university fees.) The hosting school determines the number of tickets allocated to the opposing team, along with ticket prices.

At CU, a Student Sports Pass costs $150 per year and allows students to claim tickets to home football games and men’s basketball games. This year, CU-CSU game tickets were “claimed out” quickly.

The Showdown, traditionally played at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, has shifted to a home-game schedule, making tickets even harder to get. Folsom Field’s capacity is 50,183, rather than Empower Field’s 76,125.

Ultimately, CSU students got burned. And a lot CU students didn’t fare a whole lot better.

That’s messed up. Television networks are making big money. Sanders is making big money. And student-athletes can bring in bucks with endorsements and commercials, and monetize their names, images and likenesses. Students deserve to at least be part of the spectacle with access to secured, reduced ticket prices.

Experiencing severe FOMO, CSU students in Fort Collins huddled together at watch parties in homes or at Canvas Stadium, nibbling their Grill the Buffs’ bison burgers and watching their mascot act the fool. It was tough to get pumped up over cheerleader pyramids while Lil Wayne performed in Boulder.

At least, CSU made the battle far tougher than the heavily favored Buffs expected. This felt a little more collegiate – the underdog’s strong showing – before the Buffs won 43-35 in double overtime, bringing the team’s season record to 3-0. The Rams fell to 0-2.

Next year, CSU will host CU at Canvas Stadium. We’ll see how the Showdown shows up then.

Wes Rowell