- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Final Four fever is back at the University of Maryland, and tickets, much like they were for the Terrapins' first trip a year ago, are tough to find and heavy on the wallet.
Fans yesterday quickly bought most of the 4,500 tickets allocated to Maryland for the Final Four, being played this Saturday and Monday in Atlanta.
College Park students have claimed the 450 tickets available to them.
And on the secondary ticket market, prices for prime seats neared $12,000 each.
Meanwhile, many lucky fans spent much of yesterday lining up their travel to Georgia.
"We're absolutely rolling, just like last year," said Rob Mullens, Maryland senior associate athletic director. "The phones and fax machines are burning up with requests and orders."
In all NCAA tournament games involving the Terps, Maryland gives the first and best shot at purchasing tickets to members of its Terrapin Club, which funds athletic scholarships. Nearly 3,400 seats of the 4,500-ticket block will go to club members a $2,000 donation to the university is required to guarantee tickets.
Another 450 tickets go to students, and those seats have already been distributed in a lottery. Last year, more than 100 students camped overnight to ensure they would receive Final Four tickets. But this week, with students on spring break, the university switched to a lottery for the distribution of tickets.
The remaining tickets granted to Maryland by the NCAA will be held for university and team officials, band members and other internal uses.
Each ticket carries a face value of $120 to $160 for the three games, but given the scarcity of tickets at those prices, area brokers report brisk business. Courtside locations have fetched five-figure sums, but most seats in the Georgia Dome are available for between $750 and $6,000 each.
"This is a much easier sell than last year," said Danny Matta, president of Great Seats USA, a College Park brokerage. "Atlanta is so much more accessible than Minneapolis [site of last year's Final Four]. And we're still talking about the Terps and we're still talking about a prime event."
Airline fares from Washington and Baltimore to Atlanta were available yesterday for about $300, far less than the $500 to $1,400 Terps fans spent last year to reach Minneapolis.
Easy travel from Washington to Atlanta, however, is resulting in tougher times for Sports Travel International (STI), an Olney agency contracted by Maryland to arrange Final Four travel and accommodations. The agency was swamped a year ago, but yesterday bookings were slower. Also, a planned student bus trip may not happen.
"We've had calls, but a lot of people are doing their own thing. Atlanta isn't really that mysterious," said Ken DeMatteo, STI president. "A lot of people know the town already. It's still early, though. We'll have a clearer read in a couple days."
And because the students are on spring break until Sunday, the Maryland bookstore also has moved Final Four gear at a slower pace.
"We're seeing about two-thirds the level of activity we did last year, which is still very, very good," said Stan Lohman, bookstore general manager. "But the newness has worn off a bit, I think."
Maryland's second trip to the Final Four extends an incredible run of late for the athletic department that also includes a trip to the Orange Bowl by the football team. The success has boosted Terrapin Club memberships 27 percent in the past year to nearly 7,000.
"We're still not fully funding the scholarships from the club, but this has been a very impressive boost over the last year," said Cheryl Harrison, Maryland assistant athletic director for external affairs. "We've had a lot of people starting memberships and many giving more to get the basketball tickets."

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