Final Four: Students Have a Difficult Time, But Find Creative Ways to Phoenix

Mar 31, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs mascot performs during practice for the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs mascot performs during practice for the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The four teams playing in Phoenix got to fly to the valley for free, they are staying in beautiful hotels, but for their student sections it was a much harder journey to the Final Four.

University of Phoenix Stadium hosted their largest event ever on Saturday, with a record crowd of over 73,000. A little more than 600 of those go to students from the respected schools.

Each school’s student section gets to be on the side that their team’s bench is. They have some of the best seats in the house, on the floor right behind the basket.

I say seats, but most of the students are not sitting in them, it’s the NCAA’s way of trying to get the students involved to give this big environment a small school feel.

The only problem with the student section is that . . . it wasn’t full.

The ASU and GCU student sections came in during the second game and stood in the back, giving the allusion it was more full.

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The setbacks for students are money and time.

The NCAA does not make going to the Final Four very easy for fans, they have five days to get a flight and find a hotel. Two things that have mostly been all booked up for weeks, jacking up the prices of both.

This makes it extremely hard for students on a budget to get to Phoenix in such a short time, whether they are coming from across the country in the Carolinas, or flying a few hours down from the Pacific Northwest.

Students had to get creative and find ways to make the trip on a budget to witness possibly their schools greatest athletic moment.

South Carolina and North Carolina gave every student an opportunity to buy Final Four tickets for $40, a very cheap price. Oregon did the same, but reimbursed their students later.

“We had to pay for our own ticket, but they reimbursed us,” Oregon Student Cole Williams, 22, said, “but getting here, and where your going to stay is on the students.”

Williams didn’t want to pay for the steep prices on airlines, so him and his buddies hopped in the car.

“We drove from Eugene to here (Glendale), like 19 hours, we broke it up into a couple days,” Williams said, “we went to Orange County, then Orange County to Phoenix.”

Others also got creative on how to get to Phoenix by using flight miles to pay for outrageous airfare prices.

“My plane ticket was free basically, because I spent it with miles,” Tyler Goldman, a 19 year old South Carolina student said, “(It was) probably around $600 round-trip (before the miles).”

“I had mileage points to pay for the flight, so it was clutch, the whole trip was under $100.” North Carolina student Carlos Salas, 20, said, “before the discounts it was like $800.”

The problem with booking the flight so late is controlling the days and times that you get in, Salas learned that the hard way.

“We didn’t get here until the end of the first half, (our plane) got here 30 minutes ago, I was running around the entire stadium trying to find the student section,” Salas said.

The other major expense is housing; luckily for Salas and Goldman, they have friends that live in Phoenix, but Williams will either look for a hotel or drive back to Eugene after his Ducks lost on Saturday.

Students have a lot invested in their school; they go to a majority of the basketball games and want to finish out their season with their team.

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There is going to be obstacles and expenses, but it will be a story to tell, and if their team is singing “One Shining Moment” on Monday, it will have been all worth it