Georgia Tech still fighting to be heard over the barking

Tech drew a nice gathering of 8,500 for its spring game. That's about 34,000 less than what Georgia drew for its game, which was live on ESPN. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

 

Despite the nine victories, the thumping of Georgia in Athens, the post-game mass twig-snapping of the hedges, the universal admiration for head coach Paul Johnson and the real possibility that things could get even better next season, Georgia Tech finds itself in a familiar position these days:

Yelling from the rooftops, “Watch me! Buy me! Pay some attention to me!” And what do they hear in response? “Woof!”

As Wayne Hogan, the school’s associate director of athletics, said of Georgia’s long shadow: “The sheer numbers are overwhelming. But I went through the same thing when I was at Florida State. No matter where you went, there was a Gator standing in front of you.”

This is nothing new for Tech. When the Jackets won a share of the national championship in 1990 under Bobby Ross, they weren’t even a hot ticket the following year.

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 Tech all but acknowledges that interest beyond the boundaries of campus hasn’t grown significantly, at least not financially. There is something to be said for the impact of a down economy. But when a school hires an outside agency to help sell tickets, as Tech did recently, it’s clear the product isn’t selling itself.

When Dan Radakovich came aboard as director of athletics, he and Hogan wanted the school’s programs to gain a bigger footprint on the landscape. If ever there was a window for that, it was this spring. The Jackets were coming off their best football season in years. They had beaten Georgia for the first time since 2000. A fan base that was somewhat divided behind Chan Gailey now is united behind Johnson.

But some things haven’t changed. Georgia fills 92,000 seats at Sanford Stadium and requires a donation of several thousand dollars just to be eligible for season tickets (which rarely are available). Tech can’t fill a 55,000-seat stadium. It averaged about 48,000 last year and its season-ticket base is 24,000. Most of the season tickets available for purchase won’t require a donation to the Tech fund.

Radakovich is a bottom-line guy. Hogan said, “His mind works like a spreadsheet.” But both say it would be overstating it to suggest Tech is in trouble.

“This is just a different way for us to reach out into the community,” Radakovich said. “We’re concentrating on those folks who are not part of the 92,000 in Sanford Stadium every Saturday.”

Hogan was one of the best sports information directors around in his days at FSU. When he was hired at Tech, he spoke of his plans to reach out to the increasing in-town population base for ticket sales. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

“We have about 6,000 seats to sell each game,” he said. “The first thing you do is you think, ‘We’re in a city of six million people. This can’t be difficult.’ But the reality is the guy who’s living on 10th Street has other things to do. People weren’t coming to Tech just because we had mounted some new ad campaign or had a slick billboard.”

The new sales efforts will focus on anybody with a Tech connection: parents of students, vendors, newsletter subscribers, booksellers, maybe the guy who once bought a slice of pizza two blocks away.

Hogan again: “We decided, ‘Let’s eat where we live. Let’s find all the people who have some affinity for the institute.’ Because really, it is us against the world, us against the Dogs, us against the ACC and the SEC, us against the other sports. It is what it is.”

And as much as things have improved on the field, Tech is still trying to be heard over the woofs. And good seats are still available.

240 comments Add your comment

MiltonDawg

June 15th, 2009
4:41 pm

It is what it is. Simply put.

BhamWreck

June 15th, 2009
4:42 pm

We aren’t UGA? – thats a good thing. The bigger they are the harder they fall…. Go Jackets!

stoopid

June 15th, 2009
4:46 pm

you can try but our bark will always be louder then your buzz

old gold engineer

June 15th, 2009
4:51 pm

Winning will cure this. It may take a couple more years, but winning is the cure.

Rufio

June 15th, 2009
4:58 pm

SHouldn’t there be an option on that poll if you DO attend GT games?

Jeff Schultz

June 15th, 2009
5:06 pm

Rufio — you’re right. My focus was what reason people had for not attending Tech games. But I’m going to re-do the poll right now to include those of you who obviously do attend games. It’ll be posted shortly. Thanx. JS

Rufio

June 15th, 2009
5:08 pm

Haha, thanks Jeff. While there may not be many, its nice to give everyone an option in the poll.

Jeff Schultz

June 15th, 2009
5:13 pm

No, it’s OK Rufio. I appreciate you pointing that out. NEW POLL IS RE-POSTED NOW. For those of you who voted in the first poll, you’re welcome to vote again! We count all hanging chads.

Andrew

June 15th, 2009
5:13 pm

While we struggle to sell out all our tickets, you struggle to sell your newspaper. Wanna keep layoffs from happening? Stop putting crap like this out there. I told it to your door-to-door interns. I’d buy it if it was worth it.

below me jeff

June 15th, 2009
5:14 pm

terrible poll, terrible article that reveals nothing but the fact that georgia is a larger school and has thousands of bandwagon fans. well done, jeff.

GTech

June 15th, 2009
5:15 pm

Hey Jeff,
You seem to be belittling Tech for having a smaller fan base. GT is, by its nature a smaller school than UGA, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a great team. And I agree with Old Gold Engineer that winning will solve this. People will come. Look at U. of Miami, also a small school with not a very large local alum base, but the team won a lot and brought in a lot of fans.

Chris Freeman of Macon

June 15th, 2009
5:16 pm

Ridiculous. It is award-winning journalism like this that is hastening the collapse of the AJC. Good job.

Dave In Tampa

June 15th, 2009
5:24 pm

Winning is a cure all. If tech can put together a string of winning seasons that stadium will fill out. It’s called consistency. UGA has stayed consistant so far this milenium. This Dawg believes that CPJ is finaly having Tech’s program heading in the right direction. There is no reason that tech should have to worry about filling out a 55,000 seat stadium. Period! They should be filling out a 75,000 seat stadium.

Personally, I look forward to this rivaly growing. I would love to see each team having one or no losses going into that final game. This rivalry should be much bigger than Florida/FSU. This is no knock to them, but you have so much more tradition with both Tech & UGA. It should be bigger.

P

June 15th, 2009
5:33 pm

In response to the article as a whole – really?

i feel like this is the obligatory “uga fans are still bitter about 45-42 and CMR is whining about schedule so we better give Tech some negative attention” article.

of course we’re not gonna have the bigger fanbase. but that also means that we don’t have 90% of the fanbase who are bandwagon fans and not affiliated with the school.

and Spring Game attendance numbers – really? How bout telling everyone the respective scores too? Like how in athens, the final score was 13-3, and it was 6-3 with 10 seconds left. maybe you should write another article about Joe “Wonderboy” Cox.

Captain Picard

June 15th, 2009
5:33 pm

If Ensign Crusher returns for his senior season, ole Starfleet Academy just may whip the Dawgs again.

Jeff Schultz

June 15th, 2009
5:34 pm

## Andrew, Below Me (cute): having a bad day. Maybe you two should get together. And can I interest you in Thursday thru Sunday subscriptions?
## GT: Not belittling at all. This column is fairly straight, just pointing out that they still having trouble selling tickets. I think they should be selling out, given what team did last year and what it could do next year. But I know there’s always been a segment of the Tech fan base (not saying it’s you) who view things thru you’re-out-to-get-us-colored glasses. Actually, that probably defines every fanbase, now that I think about it.
## DAVE: I agree. If Tech continues to win, momentum should build.

gtsux

June 15th, 2009
5:35 pm

Just look to your left and read my name……..

Lenny in Ludowici

June 15th, 2009
5:41 pm

I don’t know why this article is a slap in the face to a couple of people(see above). The article simply states that Tech doesn’t draw well. As has been stated, a few winning seasons would cure that. The only problem, IMO is that Tech is viewed as a stepping stone school to the coaching community. The Alabama’s, ND’s, UF’s, etc are destination schools. Until we can hire and keep a coach for more than a few years, we’ll always be viewed in that way. Yes, the size of the schools matter, but go to Moultrie, Valdosta, or Fort Valley and see how many people are driving around with the distinctive “G” on the tag on the front of the car or on their ball caps and who are obviously not Georgia grads. Their success over the last few decades has equated to capacity crowds. Tech’s spiral downward included the Pepper Rogers era and jumping out of the SEC. Big mistakes. Joining the ACC helped in the basketball arena but did nothing for football.

Brendan

June 15th, 2009
5:42 pm

Jackets graduates make more money. So, really, cost shouldn’t be the issue.

gtsux

June 15th, 2009
5:42 pm

To Gt jackets fans…you might be able to squeeze a win or 2 out ur arss but YOU WILL NEVER BE KING IN THIS STATE!!! Sorry You could have been a DAWG!! Jeff….dont make them tech fans believe they might be good next year or the next….That my friends really is trying to sell papers ultimately!!!

Vern

June 15th, 2009
5:47 pm

Bill Curry used Georgia Tech as a stepping stone to Georgia State?

Paul H

June 15th, 2009
5:48 pm

Every state has the dominant school. Here, it’s UGA. Love it or hate it, it is what it is. UGA is also aided by the fact they are an SEC school where passion for football dwarfs anything the ACC has ever offered, UGA is a consistent top 10 team, they are always relevant, etc. One Tech Victory in 8 years isn’t going to change that.

- But hey, at least Tech has their rings to remember it by.

Bobby Dudd

June 15th, 2009
5:57 pm

Georgie Tech used to be in the SEC but I pulled us out in 1964. I had some pretty good reasons at the time but it turned out to be the wrong thing to do.

gtsux

June 15th, 2009
5:57 pm

now look to your right and go all the way over to the end of the screen… imagine it wrapping around the monitor and coming out to your left…..see what my name is again…..

Alphare

June 15th, 2009
6:09 pm

This may be offensive to some. Sorry if you do get offended.

People in the south are mostly rednecks. They are against the elites, stupidity is more fashionable than smarts. Then you have UGA in the state of Georgia, it’s like mud heaven for pigs.

Sound terrible, isn’t it? but I’d say there is a lot of truth to it.

dbc

June 15th, 2009
6:10 pm

Just like it will take years of winning for Tech to fill their stadium, so would it take years of losing for UGA to see less than capacity crowds in Sanford. It’s called consistency. UGA has it, Tech does not. Big time players want to play in front of big time crowds and dream of making it to the NFL. It’s called visibility. Again, the DAWGS have it and the Bee’s don’t. One win every eight years with a gimmick offense will not build consistency. Win again this year and I’ll be the first to admit to Tech fans that you might have something going. Right now, I just don’t see it. I do think it’s better for everyone if the two schools are competitive enough to justify the rivalry. Time will tell.

jacketbacker

June 15th, 2009
6:18 pm

i don’t see this as a big surprise…ugag is the state university that is 3 times as big as Tech…..the only things the mutts have to cheer about is their football attendance and recruiting exploits…..when the games start, their disappointment begins!!

45-42!!!!

THWG

Just an opinion

June 15th, 2009
6:23 pm

Alphare is right. Not to be offensive but every redneck in the state is going to pull for UGA. Sorry but its true. Tech is a little more elitist. You have to be smart to go there and the redneck base definitely leans 95/5 in favor of the dawgs.

Also, xenophobia factors in. Tech has a lot of foreigners who feel little if any connection to football, the rednecks and average joes know this and it makes them without a doubt pull for UGA. Why pull for a school full of Asian engineering and math students who don’t care about football? A lot of nerds and out of staters also, etc. They don’t have the loyalty or the love of football that native Georgians have.

Jackets21

June 15th, 2009
6:24 pm

Nice article Jeff. You will be following T Moore very soon. What a worthless rag the AJC is. Will you guys finally go bust and let us get a real news outlet in Atlanta.
It takes dedication to be a Tech fan. It takes 9.99 at Walmart to be a Dawg fan. There is your story.

Just an opinion

June 15th, 2009
6:25 pm

Also, one last thing. I’ve been to one UGA game and it was definitely not a sellout. It was MTSU and their were definitely 5k-10k empty seats. Even UGA doesn’t sell out every game.

Alphare

June 15th, 2009
6:27 pm

I am not judgmental, opinionated and never categorize or stereotype people. That is why I am better than you.

Rabun Dawg

June 15th, 2009
6:28 pm

Winning consistently is surely a step in the right direction. I would bet that if Tech had not left the SEC back when, Grant field would be filled up with the likes of Ala., Tenn.,Uga, Auburn, LSU coming in. With the possible exception of LSU, the others were great rival games for Tech, and can you say that about the now teams such as Wake, Miami, Maryland, B.C.? It seems as though only Clemson adds up to a big rivalry game. However, if Coach Johnson continues the winning ways with some ACC titles thrown in, Grant field could look like the old days again. I grew up watching those great Tech teams of the 50’s and would like to see them return to that type of glory!

BleedGOLD

June 15th, 2009
6:34 pm

You know…I am not worried one bit about finding “good” Georgia Tech fans to fill Bobby Dodd Stsdium. It will happen. We have found our coach. We have one helluva AD in DRAD. The student-athletes are coming. But the last I looked, the AJC is getting smaller and smaller and smaller….so your point Mr. Schultz? If I wanted to bark and act like a dog, then I …no, I would never do that….it sounds stupid and is stupid! BUZZZZZZZZZ

Rabun Dawg

June 15th, 2009
6:41 pm

Well, I live in an area that does have quite a few UGA grads, but one thing for certain, the majority of those pick-ups that have the UGA plates on them don’t belong to those grads! Yes, we do have our fan base all over the state, as the majority of the good folks in Georgia do look to UGA as the “flagship” institution. Shouldn’t they? But, hey, Jackets 21, our Walmart has Tech caps and “tees” also on that $9.99 rack!! Trouble is, they do not sell !!

MyWhiskeyClear

June 15th, 2009
6:46 pm

In reverse order this time:

JustanOpinion, while more diverse than UGA, Tech is still primarily native Georgians. Hence it is still heavily white, and Greek orgs flourish. Football IS a big deal here.

jacketbacker, GA is not even close to 3 times the size of Tech. For that they would have to be nearly 70k students, and NO university is that size in this country.

In response to the article. Winning and advertising are not mutually exclusive as some on the blog seem to view them as. To fill our stadium, sell the merchandise (which, by the way, is doing WAY better than before the Athens win), and gain the media exposure we must both win AND advertise. They’ll call it annoying, but it must be that way. You’ll remember annoying. Pitch men do it, and so does any respectable sports team. That’s the industry.

I agree with the view that we should still be in the SEC, but at least playing the SEC every year adds to our schedule strength calculation in the BCS. Our average vs. the SEC needs to go WAY the crap up, though. We have a possible 3-0 cookin’ this season. It’d surely be nice.

TS

June 15th, 2009
6:49 pm

The difference is UGA attracts 90-something percent of the fanbase that never has and never will attend college. In this state, that’s a lot of people. Also, there are more hot girls in Athens, which helps.

ATL Dawg

June 15th, 2009
6:51 pm

Hey all you Techies that say winning will cure the problems…..did you read the article? It was plainly stated that despite coming off one of your best years with a 9 win season, beating UGA, and having a good head coach….you still cannot sell out that dump of a stadium. Tech will ALWAYS be a second class citizen to UGA when it comes to football. People are attracted to things that are “cool”, not a place where there are abunch of nerds. You can win all you want, but you will NEVER be in the same class of UGA when it comes to football and the support of the team. By the way, where were all you Techies when you were getting your a$$e$ handed to you every year? In the closet? Bout what I thought.

Jackets21

June 15th, 2009
6:52 pm

Rabun,
Most Tech fans don’t shop at Walmart for clothing. Sounds like you’re a Wrangler man. Nothing wrong with that, just not my style.
Finally something UGA fans can claim victory on this year. Their fanbase size.

Kinney Taylor

June 15th, 2009
7:15 pm

Parking is a problem. Fix that, we buy tickets.

AGTFan

June 15th, 2009
7:15 pm

Dave in Tampa,

Are you really a dawg fan. You made way too much sense. The more competitive and compelling the rivalry becomes, the better for both schools. I’d love to see the day when GT/UGA come into the game 1 and 2.

Rabun Dawg

June 15th, 2009
7:17 pm

Jackets 21, Wallyworld is not my place for clothing either, much prefer H.Stockton,J.Banks,etc.,But when you live in a small mountain town, one does get to the aforementioned store for some things. And no, don’t wear jeans, haven’t since high school when Lee riders and Levis were the brands of choice. Much prefer Bill’s kahkis from Nordstrom! And UGA has put some hardware in the trophy case this year, so we do have more to brag about than the size of the fanbase. But hey, that’s not a bad thong either!

Rabun Dawg

June 15th, 2009
7:20 pm

Oops! Should have been thing!! Not too many thongs around Rabun County!

TDone

June 15th, 2009
7:37 pm

Though I think this just another way for a columnist for the official newspaper of the University of Georgia to “stir it up,” I have a unique take on this matter. Pandering to the larger fan base has always been a trait of the AJC.

But you see, I am from Georgia originally, but I have lived in another state since high school. I did not attend Tech or Georgia. I was a Georgia fan until I was 10 years old, then I put away my boyish things and became a Tech fan and have stayed with Tech, in good times and bad, ever since.

As I have grown older, events and activities have proven that being a Tech fan is a much better deal than being a Georgia fan for folks who have no affiliation with either schol. I have been a Tech season ticket holder since 2003 and have only missed one home game, and just a few road games in that time.

Things that make Tech a better deal:

1. Much, much easier to get to and from the Stadium Complex. I have been to Georgia five times and it was a goat rope every time. Sort of reminds me of a monkey trying to make love to a football.

2. Georgia fans will never believe this, but Bobby Dodd is a much better place to watch a game. The improvements to Bobby Dodd over the years have met and/or exceeded my expectations.

3. One gets more bang for your buck at a Tech game, than a Georgia game. In terms of time, efforts, and resources, Tech is a much better deal.

Besides of the fact the quality of the fan base beats the quantity of the fan base, the wise consumer/fan, that is not a graduate or is not affiliated with either institution, should choose Tech. I did and it was the right choice to make then, and now.

The bottom line is that besides a bigger stadium, more passionate fan base, and the need for the AJC to sell more papers, there is no reason for a pure fan like me to choose Georgia.

What’s the Good Word?

welcometothepauljohnsonera

June 15th, 2009
7:54 pm

give it a few years. CPJ hasn’t even gotten a full four years of recruits yet. we will win and they will come.

we have the fans(see the chicken bowl turnout) but they’re just fickle with their time and money. we don’t have the drunken chants and barking but if you think that has an effect on the field than you should put on your black and go to another funeral.

a couple years of leading the nation in rushing and we’ll see what happens. we’ve got 11 guys back on offense and also add in anthony allen a transfer from louisville so we’ll be ready to run.

Tokyo jacket

June 15th, 2009
8:01 pm

Jeff, I think you missed the opportunity for some analytical journalism here. There was a lot of truth to the statement “it’s us against the world.” Because in Atlanta, there are literally 1,000’s of entertainment options out there. Can Athens say the same?

So, Jeff, the analysis I was talking about is fill % of schools in major metropolitan areas vs those out past suburbia. The only other significant programs I can think of within the city limits of a city near a million people are USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Boston College, Miami, Texas, Pittsburg, and UCF. I know 70% of those teams don’t fill their stadiums. The interesting thing is that UCLA and USC have troubles at times filling the stadium. In a city of 10 million. It’s entertainment, not football in a major city when it comes to ticket sales.

Of course UGA, Tenn, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, FSU, Auburn, Ohio St and Notre Dame sell out their stadiums. There’s nothing else to do!

Jeff I’m really not trying to poke at the AJC…I think you guys do try to put out a good product. But, in the blogging age, there’s too much editorialism and not enough journalism. The article you guys did on school entry and special acceptance was one of the best pieces of investigative and analytical journalism I’ve seen from the AJC in years. More of that might shut people like Andrew and Below me up.

gtfan

June 15th, 2009
8:02 pm

lets put things into perspective here.

gt is a small school trying to compete with the bigger schools. certainly no fault in that however…..

uga is a big school that wishes it was like a tosu but aint. no matter how much they bark… no matter how much they lick nads… no matter how much they get on all fours… no matter how much they sniff butts… no matter how much they whine… no matter how much they cheat… no matter how much they beat their chest and shout ‘hey we are in the sec’ they are still ugag. ugag will ALWAYS BE A WANNABEE….. being a school of trailer trash will do that.

perspective….

spring attendance….

gt- 9k
uga – 35 k

the big boys like THE OSU

THEY HAD 95,000 in attendance AT THEIR SPRING GAME. 95 THOUSAND. that is more than ugag has ever had at its stadium EVER during a regular season game! maybe if ugag actually tried to play a tough occ schedule they could turn things around. even gt plays a tougher occ schedule than ugag. meanwhile tosu plays the best of the best like texas and uscw.

ugag is closer to being just another gt than a legend like tosu. meanwhile gt is gaining on them in the field an in recruiting. AND we are doing it the right way. not the sec way. looks to me like ugag is going backwards.

one thing that gt has in common with tosu is the arrest record. there is none. unlike ugag. at least gt is doing right things right.

go jackets 45-42 TIARB
go tosu
screw ugag
screw phew

Jeff Schultz

June 15th, 2009
8:04 pm

LENNY: Are you bringing level-headedness, perspective and logic to the table? Bless you, my son.

VERN: Not sure but I think Alabama and Alabama was between those two jobs.

ATLDAWG: Pretty sure I didn’t write “your dump of a stadium.” You’re on your own with that one.

KINNEY: I hear Marta is smarta. But I dunno.

jacketbacker

June 15th, 2009
8:05 pm

whiskey clear….Tech has approx 15k students…ugag is in the 35-40k range….am i that far off??….the point is this, its a miracle that we are as competitive as we are against them…..they have every possible advantage……i know i would be pissed at the underachievement if i were a mutt……it must suck to be a mutt!!

45-42!!!!!

THWG

Coloradojacket

June 15th, 2009
8:07 pm

Being a long time Tech fan, going to games since 1969,and maintaining season tickets since moving to Colorado. A few points
The comment that winning would change things. Tech has not had a losing season since 1995 and has gone to 11 bowls in a row. Not a big deal, ask Nebraska, Clemson, Auburn, Michigan.
2. Georgia has a huge alumni base that mostly stays in the state. It has very little to do with SEC vs ACC. trust me, Tech fans are just as rabbid.
3. Tech, even when in the SEC at least in the 60’s started to see a drop in numbers. Bobby Dodd created band day to fill the horse shoe on the South End.

Bottom line it is what it is. For big games Grant Field is packed and the stadium is rocking. If it is a marginal game and on TV, which Tech is all the time, the fans stay home and watch.

John Smithson

June 15th, 2009
8:08 pm

“the thumping of Georgia in Athens”

What thumping? Ga. Tech played a better game and won by a modest 3 points. If the streak had to end- last year was a good time for it to happen!