Somewhere over the past few years the annual cut-off level of cumulative Hartman Fund/Bulldog Club donations necessary to become a first-time UGA football season ticket holder became a “magic” number to be breathlessly reported and discussed.
Previously, the only folks who anxiously awaited the cut-off score were those on the cusp wondering whether they’d get season tickets or not.
Now, however, it’s held up in the media like some sort of barometer of fan interest or support for March Richt’s program within the Bulldog Nation.
I think probably the tipping point was a couple of years ago when the bandwagon effect generated by preseason expectations for the then top-ranked Dogs prompted a bunch of folks to up their donations in a frantic bid to get season tickets. As a result, the cut-off score soared from $1,991 in 2007 to a ridiculous $10,651 for 2008. A jump like that naturally attracted a lot of attention from folks who previously didn’t pay any attention to the cut-off level.
Naturally, the next year when the donation levels dropped off to $4,205, it was widely reported. And ditto this year with the cut-off dropping to $1,550.
That’s basically back to normal, only a bit under three years ago, but UGA athletic officials felt the need to attribute the drop to a combination of the poor economy and the hangover from a disappointing 8-5 season.
They hastened to point out, however, what should be the most important observation in all of this: Season tickets still sold out. UGA had more requests for season tickets than they had tickets to sell and had to refund some folks’ ticket order money.
So, yeah, less money was donated than in some recent years. Some people didn’t renew their season tickets. That happens every year, some years more than others. With families struggling economically in this state, a drop-off in money donated in order to be able to buy college football season tickets should surprise no one.
And yet despite all that, the season ticket situation is tighter than it used to be. I remember during the Donnan years when Bulldog Club members didn’t snap up all available season tickets, and some were put on sale to the general public. My Dad and my brothers bought season tickets that way during several seasons, without any donation necessary.
You can’t do that any more. That’s the hallmark of the Mark Richt era.
So let’s keep all this fascination with the cut-off score in perspective. Donations might have been off this year, but there are still more people willing to make a donation just to get the right to buy season tickets than there are season tickets to be had.
There are many schools playing big-time football where that’s not the case.