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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Allyssa Thomas hates being ripped off.

She hates that vending machines charge ,1.25 when she can never find an extra quarter, and she hates spending up to ,20 doing laundry on UF's campus.

Thomas, a junior at UF, also hates seeing her fellow students selling football tickets for 10 times their face value.So, she decided to do something about that.

As a Gators football season-ticket holder, she decided to give away her ticket for the upcoming game between UF and Florida State University to a deserving stranger. Thomas held an online essay contest in which she determined a lucky fan worthy of a free seat at one of the biggest games of the season.

In the weeks approaching the game, hundreds of listings have shown up on popular Web sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, where fans can advertise tickets and get in touch with potential buyers.The average asking price on Facebook Marketplace for a ticket to the UF-FSU game is about ,100, even though students with season tickets paid ,10.

"It's a big game," Thomas said. "I know I could have sold it for a lot of money, but I'm just tired of seeing these tickets go for such ridiculous prices."

Thomas posted an ad on Facebook Marketplace prompting students to send her an essay explaining why they think the UF-FSU rivalry is important and why they deserve the ticket.

When Thomas found out she had season tickets, she knew she would not be able to attend the game. The FSU game always falls the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Thomas said she would rather spend that time with her family and give someone her ticket as a gift for the holidays. In September, she decided the fate of the ticket.

"I always watch Oprah, and she's always giving advice on how to pay it forward," she said. "I'm not good at doing things on a big scale, so I thought this was something small I could do for someone that could mean a whole lot."

Thomas' ad was viewed more than 500 times, and she received about 20 essays from hopeful fans. In the essays, students shared their personal histories with Gators football and showed off their knowledge of the rivalry.

One of Thomas' top three choices came from a UF senior who wanted the ticket for her best friend, a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point who would soon be leaving to join the armed forces.

Thomas was so moved by all the responses that she needed her family and friends to help make the decision.

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"All my mom could say was, 'What have you done? You only have one ticket to give away,'" Thomas said.

On Sunday evening, Thomas awarded the ticket to Courtney Baynai, a UF senior from Michigan who has never attended a UF-FSU game. Thomas said she wished she had enough tickets for everyone who submitted an essay. She even forwarded some of her favorite submissions to UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley, hoping he would be able to send a couple more people to the game Saturday. "I know it's a long shot, but it's worth the try," Thomas said.

Thomas said she hopes others will think twice before selling tickets for inflated prices.

"It's about time someone did the right thing," she said.

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