I already covered a couple of weeks ago why I thought Mark Richt deserved a raise, so I’m pleased the UGA athletic board acted Tuesday to up his compensation and add a year to his contract.
Something else the athletic board did Tuesday is also worthy of comment: They cut the student allotment of tickets in Sanford Stadium for football games by about 2,000 and instead will make those tickets available to young alumni.
There were 17,910 tickets reserved for students last year, but on average only 11,802 per game have been used since 2009, according to UGA’s ticket scans. The highest student attendance during that period was at the 2011 Auburn game, when 15,450 used their tickets — meaning nearly 3,000 students didn’t bother to show up for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry!
It’s embarrassing to have viewers tuning in for a nationally or regionally televised game see all those empty seats. The “gaping hole in our stadium,” as athletic Greg McGarity referred to it, has been the subject of much consternation at the school, which has tried different strategies, with mostly middling results, to get more students to show up for the games.
“We need to fill the stadium,” McGarity said.
So, starting with this season, UGA will take a little more than 2,000 of those end-zone tickets and sell them to alumni who finished their undergraduate or graduate degrees in the past five years.
I think it’s an excellent idea. Students weren’t using those tickets anyway, and the young alums, many of whom can’t afford the minimum donation to the Hartman Fund necessary to buy season tickets, have been largely shut out.
Back when students could sell hard tickets, young alums just out of UGA were frequently the buyers. Coupled with the restrictions on North Campus tailgating, the tightening of the ticket supply by going to electronic tickets on a student ID hurt attendance by recent grads. And young alums is a constituency the school and its football program need to develop.
It’s a win-win situation. Whereas students were paying $8 apiece for the tickets they didn’t bother to use, young alumni will be able to buy them for $40 in the first year without having to make a contribution. So the school still will make more money off the seats, even without the Hartman Fund payment. In the second year the young alums will be required to donate $250 to retain the tickets and that amount will increase to the standard base-level donation of $500 in the third year, which sounds fair.
Ryan Scates, a student member of the athletic board, told me it’s also important to note that students will still have the same access to tickets, because “UGA will continue to honor the same amount of student ticket requests as in years past,” essentially overselling the section just like airlines do with flights, because they know everyone won’t show up. As Scates explained, “Data reaching back to 2009 shows that even at the highest recorded levels of attendance, we still can expect over 450 seats to go unfilled in the student section after the Young Alumni Program is implemented.”
So every student who buys a ticket and shows up should have a seat.
Scates, a law student, said he’s an enthusiastic supporter of the move because it “allows newly-minted UGA grads to continue the tradition of fall Saturdays in Athens after graduation. … And most importantly, they have crafted the program in a fashion that will preserve the status-quo in regards to student access to home football games.”
As Scates noted, “the seats in Sanford Stadium for home football games are some of the university’s most coveted resources. I commend Greg McGarity and the UGA Athletics staff for taking a hard look at the most effective way to be a steward of this resource, and to also ensure active alumni support of Georgia athletics for years to come.”
Spoken like a budding politician, but I think he’s right on the mark.
How about you?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg