EBay users shelling out cash to get OSU-Michigan tickets

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2003

COLUMBUS - EBay users are paying hundreds of dollars for hats, pencils or ''a personalized white envelope.''

Oh, and the winning bidders get ''free'' tickets to Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan football game.

The Internet auctions, most run by sellers in Michigan, are an apparent attempt to avoid breaking the state's law against selling tickets to sporting events for more than face value.

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No. 4 Ohio State plays at fifth-ranked Michigan on Saturday for the Big Ten title. The 100th meeting in one of the most storied sports rivalries also assures the winner a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game.

EBay auctions run by sellers in Ohio and elsewhere often include warnings that bidders in Michigan can't offer more than face value for tickets. The offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine.

The winning bidder of one auction Tuesday will pay $705 for ''a personalized white envelope'' from a seller in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The item description continues, ''In the envelope you will receive two free University of Michigan vs. Ohio State football tickets in section 34 row 18 together for the Big Ten Championship.''

A seller in Westland, Mich., got $630 for ''an awesome Michigan bumper sticker'' - with a bonus pair of tickets in Section 15, Row 80. Other auctions have been for pencils, baseball caps and plastic cups, all with free tickets.

''If they're trying to circumvent Michigan law, it's not OK,'' said Matt Davis, spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. But prosecution would be up to individual counties, he said.

An Ann Arbor police spokesman said officers often are too harried on game day to keep track of scalping.

''We can only take a little bite out of it, if you will,'' Sgt. Pat Hughes said. ''It certainly goes on in all kinds of manners, through the Internet and everything else.''

E-mails seeking comment were sent through eBay to several sellers and bidders, many identified by the site as first-time users.

Scalping is legal in Ohio. Some online ticket brokers are asking as much as $2,000, but local ticket brokers say individual seats are going for $250 to $800.

George Gaines, a broker with Tickets Galore in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, said he sold a pair on the 30-yard line for $1,600.

''I've never seen prices this high before,'' he said.