I spoke with Cheryl Levick Tuesday about the 2010 schedule, which you’ve undoubtedly read about, here or elsewhere. She offered a sprinkling of tidbits about this schedule and beyond, which I’ll share here, because, really, who doesn’t love a sprinkling of tidbits?
1. Levick said she, with the help of associate AD Kosha Irby, spoke with “a lot of schools” about the opening Thursday night game, a spot that ultimately went to Clark Atlanta. Once they found out that Clark was interested, she said, that became the top priority.
I don’t know that I’d call it obvious, because it didn’t occur to me until I heard about it, but I think it’s a smart addition. For GSU alumni, it’s, at the least, a recognizable name and perhaps a school that they have some connection to, even if it’s merely knowing people who went or go to school there.
There are plenty of Clark alumni in metro Atlanta and I imagine even alumni outside of the area who would want to see their team in the Georgia Dome against an FCS team and especially one that that they know well.
For the average fan who last year might have passed on last year’s opener for the reason of “I’ve never heard of Shorter,” at least this has some recognition.
2. Levick didn’t know that Georgia Tech was planning its opener for the same night until Western Carolina announced it Tuesday. She spun it as a positive, saying, “Let’s have it be college night in the city of Atlanta,” but this isn’t the ideal. It takes away potential ticket buyers, media space and, at the very least, will make traffic worse for fans trying to get to the dome. That said, how the two games draw could be noteworthy. (If you’ll remember, one juicy detail of last year’s opener was that it out-drew the Braves game the same night.)
I’d think GSU-Clark Atlanta can do better than GSU-Shorter, which was just over 30,000, and apparently could have been higher if not for a lot of fans giving up on understaffed ticket window lines.
Tech is coming off a disappointing season and Western Carolina, while it’s the opener, isn’t going to make the turnstiles overheat. For what it’s worth, when Tech played Jacksonville State in a Thursday night opener in 2008 – which had the added attraction of being Paul Johnson’s first game – it drew 45,706.
I’m not saying GSU is going to outdraw Tech – I’ll say it’d be a much bigger upset than Clark Atlanta beating GSU – but I will say it could be closer than you’d think would be the attendance gap between a second-year FCS team and a tradition-bound FBS team.
3. I’ll add this. I think attendance that game will be one barometer on where things are headed. While I think the game will draw at least in the neighborhood of last year’s opener, if not better, I suppose there’s the possibility that last year’s 30K was an aberration, evidence of Atlantans’ seeming excitement for big events.
Attendance dipped considerably after that. It’s possible that the people who came last year because of the novelty of the inagural game won’t be nearly as interested this year. I don’t think that will be the case, but I do think that the average sports fan in Atlanta, for a number of reasons, can be a bit of a tough sell.
If the number is down notably from the Shorter game, it won’t mean the sky is falling, but I also don’t think you’ll see Mark Becker firing his six-shooters in the air, shouting “Yee-haw!”
4. Levick looked at more Thursday night games over the course of the season, which is something I heard a lot of you campaigning for, but “it just didn’t work,” she said. The one reason she gave – presumably there were others – was missed class time.
5. Among the priorities in building the schedule – Thursday night opener, an FBS FCS game, six home games, a bye earlier in the season than last season, balance between home and road games. Last year, you’ll remember, six of the Panthers’ seven home games were played in two three-week stretches, and it was thought that having so many home games in consecutive weeks hampered attendance. If that was indeed a factor, it won’t be this year. The schedule opens with two consecutive home games – Clark Atlanta and Old Dominion – and then alternates road-home the rest of the way.
Said Levick, “I like the schedule.”
There’s more I’ll get to next week. Thanks for reading.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia State beat