College football is turning schools into hotels with $475,000 rooms

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Image: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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You’d imagine $100,000 hotel rooms to only be found in exotic resorts in the most far-flung realms of the world—but there are some sitting on a college campus in central Texas.

Texas A&M University is in the process of building a hotel across the street from its 100,000-capacity football field, the fourth-largest stadium in the US, where its undergraduate team plays six or seven games each year. This week, the college is holding auctions and lotteries for the right to reserve individual rooms in the hotel on any day for the next 10 years—and the starting points for bids on the top floor are as high as $475,000. (Buyers also get their name engraved on a plaque on the door.)

Exorbitant as the price tags are, university officials say more than 750 Texas A&M alumni have expressed interest in the program so far—with a fair number of that group already putting down $5,000 deposits.

The guaranteed rooms are similar to the personal seat licenses that some professional sports team offer for purchases to dedicated fans. It is a clever business move on the school’s part. Hotels are scarce in the area, thousands of spectators flock to campus for every football game, and several other colleges already offer guaranteed room programs, though none commanding such high prices. “In college sports, it’s kind of an arms race,” Phillip Ray, Texas A&M’s vice chancellor of business affairs, said to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). He added that the school plans to auction off the hotel name to a corporation for additional revenue, and that “we think the naming right is worth north of $20 million.”

Yet the high going rates for rooms in the yet-unbuilt hotel also speak to something broader, and more troubling: America’s fanatical love of college football. The sport has been attacked for decades for its physical danger and damaging social culture—especially at the college level, with young students at risk instead of professional, salaried athletes. That Texas A&M alumni are willing to pay upward of $475,000 just to guarantee accommodations at football games is proof that doing away with the system would be no easy task.