Luther Turmelle - March 29, 2023
Photos by Robert Luciani
Now more than ever, being a University of Connecticut men's basketball fan comes with a hefty price tag, particularly if you want to be in Houston in person as the Huskies play in the 2023 Final Four at NRG Stadium.
With just a week between UConn's Elite Eight win over Gonzaga and the Huskies' semifinal game against the University of Miami Saturday, fans are scrambling to book transportation, lodging and tickets to the culmination of NCAA's post-season tournament. What many are finding are expensive airfares, particularly if you want to fly out of Bradley International Airport.
For Steve Dargan of West Haven, the willingness to fly out of an airport other than Bradley saved him a bundle. By flying out of New York City's LaGuardia Airport, he paid about $500 for a round-trip flight.
A friend, who is flying out of Bradley, paid about $1,000 for a round-trip ticket, Dargan said.
In arranging his trip to this year's Final Four, Dargan said he benefited from lessons learned from attending the event three previous times when the UConn men were participants.
"My friends and I hedged our bets and bought our airline tickets before the Gonzaga game," he said.
Prices for round-trip airfare leaving from Bradley to Houston on Friday and returning on Tuesday ranged from $728 on Southwest Airlines with a stop at Midway Airport in Chicago to $1,780 for a flight with one stop at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
UConn fans looking to book hotel packages that include Final Four tickets but not airfare can go through the NCAA's ticket site. Prices range from $1,540 per person for a hotel and ticket to Monday's championship game, but not Saturday's semifinal games, to $3,045 per person for lodging and an individual ticket to all Final Four games.
UConn students looking to go to the Final Four on the cheap benefit from a discount offered by the NCAA.
The governing body of collegiate athletics provides each school participating in the men's Final Four with 700 student tickets at a discounted price of $40 each for Saturday's semifinals, according to Stephanie Reitz, a UConn spokeswoman. Championship game tickets are provided free to those students from the advancing teams that purchased semifinal tickets, Reitz said.
"UConn is giving priority access on the available student tickets to juniors and seniors who have attended the most men’s basketball games this season and students who have attended the most overall athletics events, as recorded by the Top Dogs student app," she said. "To accommodate as many students as possible, students may purchase no more than one ticket."
Student tickets for the men’s Final Four are purchased through a secure link, according to Reitz.
The school is not coordinating or providing any transportation or lodging, she said.
But during previous Final Fours, UConn had worked with WorldTek Travel in Hamden to arrange charter flights for fans, according to Mike Enright, a spokesman for the university who previously worked in the school's athletic communications department. But with this year's Final Four, Enright said the school elected not to facilitate the travel of UConn fans.
"We decided not to do it for two reasons," he said. "One is that with the proliferation of new airlines, it has become cheaper for fans to book airfares on their own. The second is that there are fewer charters out there now, and for what it would cost to charter a plane, our fans would be paying a couple of thousand dollars."
To help budget-conscious fans, UConn Athletic Director David Benedict took to Twitter on Sunday to gauge interest in facilitating chartered buses to get the team's fans to Houston. In his tweet, Benedict estimated that the bus trip would cost between $400 and $500 per person.
But Bill Peterson, the school's assistant athletic director for communications, said Tuesday that the plan was scrapped because of a lack of sufficient interest.
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