When Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich contracted with BYU for a four-game series (later shortened to two), his intent was to provide season-ticket buyers with a name-brand opponent for the weaker even-year home schedule.
The school’s continuing efforts to schedule attractive opponents could bring Penn State to Bobby Dodd Stadium. Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Purdue are other teams that could be in the mix down the road.
“We’ve had conversations with all of them about trying to do something,” said Ryan Bamford, Tech’s associate athletic director for internal operations.
Nothing is substantive at this point and games would likely be for the end of the decade. Bamford’s greater priority is finding a fourth non-conference game, ideally a home-and-home with an FBS opponent, for 2013 and 2014. As is the case across the ACC, Tech is in the position of hunting for non-conference games because the league reverted to an eight-game league schedule Oct. 3 after adopting a nine-game league schedule in February.
The league expanded the schedule to accommodate the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The return to eight games was in response to Notre Dame’s contract with the ACC to play five conference opponents annually.
“There aren’t a lot of teams that have openings,” he said of the 2013-14 seasons. “Trying to find the right fit and marriage for us is important.”
The re-formatting of the ACC schedule could well accommodate Tech’s desire to play Clemson at home in even years to balance the schedule. Playing Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia at home in odd years has caused season-ticket sales to spike and drop in alternating years. Bamford said the league has told him that it will attempt to grant that wish, which would likely mean the Yellow Jackets would play at Clemson in 2013 for a second year in a row.
Bamford said that “having to go to Clemson twice (in a row) would stink, but when you look at the 12-year landscape, it looks like a pretty good deal.”
Bamford also said that he has had conversations with a team far closer geographically than BYU, or Clemson – Georgia State. With Georgia State moving up to the Sun Belt for the 2013 season, the Panthers could be a 2-for-1 opponent – two games at Tech and one game at the Georgia Dome. Discussions are at a preliminary stage.
“I think it would be a good thing for Tech and a good thing for Georgia State,” Bamford said.
Saturday, when the Jackets play BYU at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the attendance will be augmented by blue-clad Cougars fans from across the Southeast. At the start of the week, more than 12,000 single-game tickets had been sold for Saturday’s game. Besides the Miami game, which also sold in that range, the single-game ticket sales have ranged from 3,000 to 6,000, said Rick Thorpe, Tech’s associate athletic director for sales and fan experience.
Thorpe said he’s heard from sales reps who’ve sold to BYU fans. The ticket department also reached out to local Mormon churches to drive sales. The Cougars, who became an independent in 2011, have traveled to Boston College, Texas, Tulane, Florida State and Mississippi in recent seasons. They played a home-and-home with Tech in 2002-03.
“When they do come, it’s a big deal,” said Kurt Bartlett, a BYU grad in Spring Hill, Tenn. A season-ticket holder before moving from Utah five years ago, Bartlett and his wife will be taking his triplet 12-year-old boys to their first BYU game.
BYU fans will be arriving from Virginia, Texas and closer points within the Southeast.
“Seeing them in person, it just brings back part of your childhood,” said Tony Camara, a Greensboro, N.C., resident and BYU grad who grew up in Provo, Utah, and will root for the Cougars with about 30 friends and family members.
They are no doubt welcomed visitors for Radakovich, whose department’s ticket sales are $600,000 below budgeted figures.
Said Thorpe of BYU’s drawing power, “It’s definitely helped.”
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog