Right after Michigan scored the touchdown against Ohio State that put her team in the Rose Bowl, Angie McIntire of Westland, Mich., was on the telephone making travel plans to Pasadena.
McIntire shelled out $3,000 for air fare, a hotel room, and parade and game tickets for herself and her nephew, Luigi, 10.
She was told by the tour operator, Premier Sports Tours of Tampa, Fla., that her game tickets would be at the Detroit airport. Then, she was told that the tickets would be at her Woodland Hills hotel. But again she was stiffed.
She and 300 other Wolverine fans had become victims of the superheated market for seats.
"I'm hearing from everyone that they have absolutely never encountered as much demand for tickets," said Ken Veronda, a Tournament of Roses spokesman.
Brokers said the ticket crunch came about because the University of Michigan has a chance to win the national title. And Washington State is playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day for the first time in 67 years.
As a result, the mercurial ticket market soared as high as $900 on Tuesday before plunging to $350 or less on Wednesday, which is still dear considering the face value of the prized ducats is $75.
The ticket price spike made it more expensive for brokers to buy tickets at the prices quoted to tour operators--usually around $225. And that forced some to scramble to buy tickets elsewhere.
"We were guaranteed a certain amount of tickets at a certain price . . . and they weren't there," said Sara Twidell of Collegiate Athletic Travel of State College, Pa.
So, she ended up paying $600 to $900 each for the tickets she had promised to 900 Wolverine fans.
"We've taken a severe hit, but you either take care of the clients or you hose them, and that's not the way we do business," she said.
Worldwide Sport Travel was supposed to supply the tickets for McIntire and her group. When the much-sought-after tickets hadn't materialized by Tuesday evening, the Michigan fans began complaining to the management of the Warner Center Marriott Hotel, where they were lodged.
Their griping got so heated that the managers, fearing a possible riot, summoned police to the scene. On Wednesday, however, McIntire and several others decided to salvage their trip by buying tickets on their own--at $250 apiece.
"This is a trip of a lifetime because the winner will be national champion," said McIntire as she waited with Luigi to board a bus for a pep rally at Citrus College in Glendora. "After all we've been through, they better win."
Anxious buyers and profit-minded sellers placed dozens of ads in The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In 1994, at least 1,000 Wisconsin fans were denied a chance to see the Badgers defeat the UCLA Bruins 21-16 when ticket brokers were unable to come up with enough seats to meet demand.
Twidell blamed Tournament of Roses ticket distribution policy for such shortages. Other major college athletic events sell most of their tickets to consumers, but the Rose Bowl does not.
The Rose Bowl, in a policy dating to 1947, allocates one third of the seats to the Pac-10 Conference and one third to the Big Ten Conference. The rest are distributed to volunteers, the city of Pasadena and through a lottery. Ultimately, many end up in the hands of brokers.