Most folks determined to watch Monday night's College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Georgia from inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will have to pay a minimum of $425 on the secondary ticket market for that experience. And that's for the worst seats in the house.
Not so for Covenant College students Wesley Dusek and Olivia Sanders and their sport management professor Michaela Kourmoulis, however.
The three of them will have some of the best seats in the house — or at least some of the best views of the field — as they work the press box during the national championship game that will be a rematch of last month's Southeastern Conference title meeting.
"I've heard they're pretty expensive," Sanders said from downtown Indy on Sunday evening after working a 5k road race in connection with the title game earlier in the day. "I don't think I could afford one."
Kourmoulis has taken her students to big-time sporting events before through a program begun by Fritz Polite when he was on the faculty at the University of Tennessee and she was one of his students. Now the first associate vice president for student leadership development at Shenandoah College, Polite selects a group of students to work major sporting events every year — everything from the Kentucky Derby to the Final Four to the Daytona 500 to the Super Bowl.
"I take two students every year," Kourmoulis said. "They have to write an essay about why they should be chosen. I also consider their classroom performance. This year the event just happened to be the national championship game."
The professor and Sanders drove to Indy on Thursday. At least they started the trip, which normally takes around seven hours. Only this time they had to spend the night in Bowling Green, Kentucky, due to a snowstorm. Dusek flew from his home in Chicago without any delays.
Once there, the trio has been busy. Dusek, Sanders and Kourmoulis visited NCAA headquarters, which is basically a deep throw by Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young from Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL's Colts. They've toured Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They worked the road race. They've been briefed on their jobs for game day.
"We've gotten to see a lot of the rich sports culture in Indianapolis," Sanders said.
"My father and brother are both Alabama fans," Sanders said. "But my mother and I are for Auburn. So this is kind of a bittersweet experience for me."
Added Kourmoulis: "I went to Tennessee, so having to watch both Georgia and Alabama get to this game is unfortunate for me. But my husband's a big Bama fan, so I'll be bringing some souvenirs home."
Yet Dusek is firmly in the Dawgs' corner, even if he grew up in Big Ten country rooting for Northwestern and Illinois.
"I've made a lot of friends from Georgia, and seeing them all celebrate when the Braves won the World Series was a lot of fun," said the sophomore outfielder for the Scots baseball team. "So I'll be pulling for Georgia because that's who they'll be pulling for."
Of course, there's no cheering in the press box, so they'll keep their rooting interests to themselves during the game.
Anyway, the main reason for the trip is to learn about what it takes to put on an event such as the CFP title game, which may be dwarfed in media participation within this country by the Super Bowl only.
"It's an opportunity for these students to get practical, hands-on experience," Kourmoulis said. "They can put working a large-scale event on their resumé."
Dusek hopes to one day become a college athletic director.
Sanders, a native of Montevallo, Alabama, who once played volleyball for the Scots, is more uncertain about her career path, other than she wants it to involve sports.
"I just want to go where the work takes me," she said.
The birth of Kourmoulis and husband Nathan's daughter Ellie six months ago took Nathan off the travel list for the title game. It also posed a prickly question for Ellie's mom: Is this child going to grow up rooting for Tennessee or Alabama?
"We have some pretty heated discussions over that," Kourmoulis said with a laugh. "My sister Maggie was actually the Smokey mascot at UT. Let's just say that for Christmas, Ellie got a bunch of Tennessee stuff and one small Alabama present."
And who knows? By the time Ellie's old enough to help her mom at a future CFP title game, the Vols might be good enough to be playing it instead of one of those SEC schools her mom's not so fond of.