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With Clemson clinching early, ACC title game will be awash in orange

mhames@charlotteobserver.com

UNC-Chapel Hill football fans may think they missed the turn-off to Charlotte and instead ended up in Death Valley on Saturday night when they enter Bank of America Stadium for the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game against Clemson.

They’ll likely be greeted by a stunning splash of Tiger orange.

Since Clemson clinched the conference’s Atlantic Division on Nov. 7 – two weeks before the Tar Heels clinched the Coastal Division – its fans had a head start buying tickets.

While there’s little data showing the breakdown in ticket sales, all indications are that Tiger fans will be disproportionately represented at the sold-out game at the 73,000-seat NFL stadium – the third of three sell-outs since the title game was moved to Charlotte in 2010.

Our people are fired up about this game and started buying two weeks ahead of North Carolina fans. So it stands to reason we’ll have a bunch of orange in that stadium.

Tim Bourret, Clemson’s assistant athletic director of football communications

Some on Clemson sports Internet message boards are speculating that Tiger fans have bought at least 50,000 tickets.

“We don’t have anything scientific, but we’re guessing that about two-thirds of the stadium – if not more – will be filled with Clemson fans,” said Miller Yoho, communications director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, the game’s local organizing committee for the ACC. “Because Clemson clinched 14 days earlier, that’s 14 days of sales that was primarily Clemson.”

Tickets went quick

The game instantly became a prized ticket in Charlotte with two schools with devout fans from the Carolinas less than a three-hour drive away. Much rides on a victory: Besides a conference championship, Clemson is 12-0 and would slide into the four-team college football playoffs for a chance to win a national championship. UNC, on an 11-game win streak, would be under playoff consideration with a win.

Initially, Clemson and UNC were each allotted 5,500 tickets for boosters and students. Those went quickly and both schools requested more tickets. Clemson got 6,000 more tickets and UNC another 2,500 tickets.

Those sold out in no time. That immediately drove up ticket prices on the secondary market. As of Thursday, upper deck seats on ticket broker sites ranged from about $130 to $250.

The fact that two of three fans will be cheering for Clemson doesn’t mean that UNC’s faithful is disinterested in the game. UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said the school got more than 15,500 requests for tickets. The 700 tickets allotted to UNC students were gone in 14 minutes, he told a Raleigh-based sports talk show on Wednesday.

Clemson officials are quietly pleased by the ticket sales.

“Our people are fired up about this game and started buying two weeks ahead of North Carolina fans,” said Tim Bourret, Clemson’s assistant athletic director of football communications. “So it stands to reason we’ll have a bunch of orange in that stadium.”

The game is projected to have a $30 million impact on the local economy, the sport foundation said.

Staying ‘out of that orange’

The specter of so much orange – and the inflated ticket prices on the secondary market – may keep many ticketless UNC fans at home to watch the game on TV.

Cameron Wilkinson of Charlotte, a devoted Tar Heel sports fan, said she’ll watch at home despite being offered tickets. In 1974, as a UNC junior, she developed an allergy to orange after driving friends to Death Valley – the nickname for Clemson’s stadium – to cheer on their team.

“When we got there, I’d never seen so much orange in my life,” Wilkinson said. “Anything that could be orange was orange: Cars, coolers, fingernails, sunglasses, hats, overalls. We left early because I had to get out of that orange.”

John Theobald, a 1980 UNC graduate and longtime Rams Club booster, has been to every UNC football game in Charlotte. This time, he too is staying home. He got frustrated with the Rams Club when his request for four tickets wasn’t filled. He was told tickets allotted to UNC were already gone by the time they got to his request.

Now, Theobald’s not sure he wants to pay several hundred dollars for a decent seat. “Especially,” he said, “if we’re going to be sitting in the middle of a sea of orange.”

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061

Be wary of counterfeiters

Because the ACC Championship game is sold out, the local Better Business Bureau posted a warning on counterfeit tickets:

1. Use caution if you are buying tickets on the street before the game. When you get to the gate and find out your tickets aren’t real, the seller will be gone.

2. If you are buying from an online broker, look for the BBB seal so you know that you are dealing with a reputable company with a secure website. Buy the tickets online. Don’t be lured away by a seller who would prefer to conduct the transaction privately.

3. If you are buying tickets through Craigslist, don’t pay the seller by wire transfer or prepaid debit card such as the Green Dot card.

4. If you are buying from a local seller, meet in a public place for the purchase so that you don’t get robbed.

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