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A Detailed Explanation Of The BCS NCG Notre Dame Student Ticket Issue

An English major gets bold looking at the numbers.

UPDATE: Holy Cross College was eventually given 10 tickets to give to its students for the BCS Championship Game. The final lottery success rate for Notre Dame students was 37%.

There's been one issue that has been raging all over South Bend, Indiana for the past several days: who will get the student tickets for the BCS National Championship Game?

Now, if you aren't familiar with the culture of the University of Notre Dame, this would seem like a cut-and-dry issue. Who would get tickets? Well, the Notre Dame students, right? Wrong, or at least to some degree.

Notre Dame is part of a triumvirate of schools in the area -- St. Mary's College and Holy Cross College are deemed "sister and brother" schools of Notre Dame. That means that St. Mary's and Holy Cross students can join Notre Dame clubs, get tickets to all Notre Dame sports, and typically participate in almost any event held on Notre Dame's campus. The student bodies of the schools are very friendly to each other (although it must be acknowledged that St. Mary's girls and Notre Dame girls have a longstanding rivalry or "friendly feud") and you can't attend one school without getting familiar with the other.

This past weekend, Notre Dame students were given a rather unpleasant surprise. Sunday was the day that the Notre Dame Athletics Department sent out the information for student bowl tickets. And there were a couple of curveballs thrown in:

- There was an extremely generous "concerned" alumnus that made a huge donation to cut the price of student tickets from $300 to $150 each.

- No priority would be given to seniors for the tickets (only seniors are even eligible at Alabama).

- Current full time undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at Notre Dame and St. Mary's are eligible to enter the lottery.

- Holy Cross was not included in the allotment.

With these four things, the Notre Dame Athletics Department set off a wildfire.

First, the student response to the donor's generosity was almost completely opposite of what you would expect: students were livid about it. What essentially happened is that the donor spiked demand for the tickets. If say, 5,000 students were going to apply for tickets at a $300 price (keep in mind students also have to find a way to Miami and a place to stay), you'd expect a couple thousand students that were on the fence to now be all-in for the tickets. You couldn't walk anywhere without hearing people complain:

"I'd pay an extra $150 dollars to double my odds of winning a ticket. If I don't win the lottery, what should I do, go to StubHub and buy one? Have you seen those prices?"

The next big issue with the ticket lottery was that St. Mary's students were to be included with the Notre Dame student body -- this has been beyond sensitive and caused quite a divide among the student populations. You see, while St. Mary's students are able to participate in Notre Dame clubs and activities, and are eligible to purchase student tickets for all Notre Dame sports, the very bottom line is that they are NOT Notre Dame students -- they are fans of the school that attend another local college. Essentially they should have as good of a chance getting Notre Dame student bowl tickets as they do getting the tickets from Alabama's student body -- 0%. Notre Dame students argue that their $42,000 tuition per year (not including room and board) means they literally pay for the right to have these championship tickets. That's tough to argue with, considering the Notre Dame jerseys don't display a St. Mary's logo anywhere on them.

The funny thing about it is that Notre Dame students even find it acceptable that St. Mary's students do get included -- they simply argue that St. Mary's should not have an equal allotment to Notre Dame students or an equal chance of getting a ticket. St. Mary's students received their own separate lottery allotment of 100 tickets for both the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and the 2007 Sugar Bowl, and Notre Dame students were okay with this move.

Meanwhile, Holy Cross has a real legitimate gripe over all of this, considering its students don't get included in the lottery at all. It was certainly an odd decision by Notre Dame -- if St. Mary's was included, Holy Cross should have been too -- or else, both should have been left out. Notre Dame inexplicably played favorites among its brother and sister schools that both support the university.

But here's what students really want to know right now: what are my chances of getting bowl tickets given all of the stipulations and additional eligible students?

Well, in today's Observer, the Notre Dame-St. Mary's student newspaper, an article appeared that indicated the Notre Dame Ticketing Office has heard the numerous complaints about the lottery, and has made a change that is more palatable to Notre Dame students:

Saint Mary’s students receive access to a “proportional” quantity of BCS National Championship Game tickets that is equivalent to their percentage of the total combined Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s student population, according to an email statement from the Notre Dame Ticket Office. There are 2,500 student tickets available in the lottery, the results of which will be announced Monday.

“However, their win rate can be no higher than that of the Notre Dame student lottery. Any excess Saint Mary’s tickets would go to the Notre Dame lottery,” the statement reported.

So now it's time to do a little math (numbers slightly rounded).

There are 2,500 student tickets available to just over 13,500 eligible students -- 12,000 of those are Notre Dame (8,450 undergrad and 3,550 graduate students) and 1,500 St. Mary's. This mean's that 88.9% of eligible students are from Notre Dame, and 11.1% are from St. Mary's. The expected values of tickets in a random lottery would be 2,223 to Notre Dame students, with 277 going to St. Mary's.

As of Monday, more than 4,000 students had applied for the lottery, according to Notre Dame senior athletic director Josh Berlo. And 400 of those students were from St. Mary's. Now, that number will certainly have risen before today's 5:00 p.m. deadline, but most of the students that were planning on going to Miami regardless of if they win the lottery had likely applied in the first 24 hours (tickets are non-refundable -- if you win the lottery, you are charged for it automatically). For the sake of this approximation, we are going to assume that 6,000 total students will apply for the lottery, with 550 of them being from St. Mary's (to keep consistent with the ratio we have already seen).

If Notre Dame students are eligible to win at least 2,223 (the "proportional" criteria) tickets with 5,450 applicants, that would give each student a 40.7% chance of winning a ticket. St. Mary's, by comparison, would have 550 applicants for 277 tickets -- giving them a 50.4% chance of getting a ticket. But remember, according to The Observer today, St. Mary's students cannot have a higher success rate in the lottery than Notre Dame students -- so likely St. Mary's will have to give a portion of those tickets back to Notre Dame.

All in all, we are looking at an expected 2,250 tickets going to Notre Dame students, and 250 going to St. Mary's students, which most students will find quite acceptable, despite the initial fear that St. Mary's and Notre Dame students could receive fairly equal shares due to a random lottery process. And regardless of which school you attend (as long as it isn't Holy Cross), you will have approximately between a 35-50% chance of getting a ticket (remember, the 6,000 projected applicants is just that, a projection).

The results of the ticket lottery will be published on Monday, December 10th. Hopefully then the schools will be able to put all the drama behind them and start focusing on the real enemy at hand: the Crimson Tide.