Sanford Stadium crowds need to get loud more often

Mark Richt loved the fan engagement Saturday, which began at Dawg Walk. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt loved the fan engagement Saturday, which began at Dawg Walk. (Jason Getz / AJC)

UGA may have the SEC’s best fan base (as rated in an Emory University study) but in recent years Sanford Stadium crowds haven’t always provided the sort of loud, boisterous “12th man” factor in games that the home team would prefer.

No wonder Mark Richt was all over social media last week with entreaties for Dawg fans to show up early, get loud and try and make it difficult for the Gamecocks to hear their offensive signals.

There was good reason for Richt’s ploy: Georgia had just lost a game at Clemson in a playing environment so loud the offensive line even had trouble with its silent signals, leading to a number of costly penalties and poor pass protection. Last year, South Carolina fans raised a remarkable din at Williams-Brice Stadium that seemingly rattled the Dawgs.

I don’t know how much our yelling this past Saturday really messed with South Carolina’s offense, but it certainly was the loudest crowd to watch a game Between the Hedges since the 2007 Blackout game against Auburn. In fact, as I noted the other day, the crowd was so noisy that Georgia players had to gesture for fans to quieten down when the Bulldogs were calling their own offensive signals.

Of course, it helped that the game featured one of Richt’s more aggressive game plans. There’s nothing like an early onside kick to take the crowd up a notch. And Mike Bobo’s use of a more uptempo offense helped keep the fans fired up.

Richt and the players were appreciative of the change from too many previous Saturdays when it took a Georgia touchdown or a key third-down conversion attempt to draw some noise out of the UGA fans.

As Richt said in The Red & Black: “The crowd was amazing. Dawg Walk was awesome … Then we get our pre-game warm-up and the student section is packed, and they’re loud and rowdy. They kind of led the way … for everybody in the stands. By the time we came out by the Bulldog statue, our fans were there, they were really into it. They got loud when they needed to. After that touchdown by Justin Scott-Wesley, I thought the crowd blew the roof off. I’m was really pleased with the fans and appreciate everybody.”

UGA players and fans celebrate after the win over South Carolina. (Jason Getz / AJC)

UGA players and fans celebrate after the win over South Carolina. (Jason Getz / AJC)

And defensive end Garrison Smith told the UGA student paper: “We feed off that energy from the crowd. That’s why it’s so important for the crowd to get loud and keep that energy going.”

The recruits sitting in those new seats in the East end zone noticed, too. As DJ Smith, one of UGA’s top remaining targets at defensive back, put it: “It was really loud, and everybody was really into the game.”

This whole idea of the crowd becoming the 12th man by making it more difficult for the visitor has been a way of life for years at places like LSU’s Death Valley and Texas A&M’s Kyle Field. But too often in recent years, the crowds at Sanford earned a reputation more for a late-arriving, early-leaving student section that left large gaps of seats unfilled and quieter nonstudent fans who tended to sit on their hands during long stretches of the game.

The lack of intimidation factor for visitors to Sanford is the main element of UGA fandom that seems to be lacking. Otherwise, researchers Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi of Emory’s Goizueta Business School recently found that the Bulldogs have the No. 1 fan base in the SEC and rank second nationally, behind only Texas.

Their study, covering a 10-year period, looked at how fans support their teams, based on metrics related to winning percentage, bowl participation and revenues. They reported that “over the period of our study, both Georgia and Alabama averaged between 9 and 10 wins a season. However, Georgia averaged 12 percent more in revenues per year than Alabama. Alabama also had a couple of years in the beginning of our sample (2002 & 2004) where the home games were not all filled to capacity. Thus, over the period of our study, when we control for team performance and other institutional factors, the Georgia fan base is just a bit more loyal and devoted.”

In another ranking, UGA also placed third behind Texas and Michigan on the most recent list of college football programs generating the most revenue and highest profits.

But, let’s face it, despite that devoted fan base Sanford Stadium hasn’t always been a particularly intimidating place for visiting teams to play. Saturday was an exception.

Richt challenged Georgia fans to keep it up, and it’ll be interesting to see if that happens. No one really expects a sustained roar for the North Texas game, but when LSU and former Bulldog QB Zach Mettenberger come to visit late this month, the Sanford crowd needs to rise to the occasion, to borrow a phrase from Erk Russell.

As Aaron Murray said after the South Carolina game, “Those fans tonight were unbelievable. It’s a beautiful thing to come out there and look up and see every seat filled with red and black and fans going nuts the entire game. We need that from here on out.”

Athletic director Greg McGarity summed it up this week in an online chat with fans: “We need that support every week. People have no idea the impact it has on our players, staff, and prospects.”

ANOTHER GAME DAY ISSUE

While on the subject of game day in Athens, this past Saturday appears to have drawn mixed reviews from many fans. As expected, the switch to scanning tickets slowed things down, with the lines to enter the stadium backing up and moving quite slowly and fans having lengthy waits to pass through the gates. I didn’t have that problem, but then I generally get to my seat before the team’s even come out for warm-ups.

The stadium still managed to be pretty full by kickoff, but fans are advised to get there even earlier in the future if they don’t want a long wait in line.

Speaking of lines, despite UGA announcing that it was going to have more vendors this season, fans report the amount of time necessary to get concessions was still ridiculous. It’s become routine for fans making a midgame trip to get a drink or something to eat to miss nearly an entire quarter of the game. This past Saturday, my son tried to avoid such a line by going to a water fountain to refill his water bottle — only to run into an even longer line of folks who had the same idea!

McGarity got some flak over this issue during his Monday chat at Georgiadogs.com, including one fan who said he “waited over 45 minutes for a water at the concession stands and missed a large part of the game.” McGarity said fixing that problem is one of the UGA Athletic Association’s “top priorities” and promised “more hawkers for beverages. Better accessibility to portable stands. Attempts to increase productivity behind the counter.”

He also said he hopes fans notice improved telecommunications connectivity in the stadium this season and “we expect more to come for the 2014 season. … Stay tuned!”

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

75 comments Add your comment

dean

September 12th, 2013
8:57 am

I had my television volume turned up to BLAST level. It was fantastic the way the crowd kept the noise up. It kept us home-bounders jacked up!

Malinda

September 12th, 2013
9:10 am

My friend,Mac. Left to get a free refill for our $8.00 coke and got super frustrated at the wait. They could use one of those machines to do that sort of thing. Mac said the counter people seemed to work in slow motion. Where are all of those “Poss” boys selling cokes up and down the aisles?? As I recall, fans used to tip big when buying those cokes. All I saw sat. Was folks selling those frozen ice things! When the weather is that hot and humid, there is money to be made selling cokes!! But the game itself….AMAZING!

Dawgfan15

September 12th, 2013
9:11 am

Bill-great article as always. One thing I would like to hear AD McGarity address is the LACK of phone service in the stadium. He says we should notice improved service…I see nothing of the sort. They want fans to text & tweet photos during the game yet I’m still unable to get service on my phone. What are they doing to improve this? Thanks and GO DAWGS!

Dawgfan15

September 12th, 2013
9:13 am

@Malinda-we thought the same thing. We saw 1 hawker in our section the entire game and that wasn’t until the middle of the 4th quarter.

Mark S.

September 12th, 2013
9:13 am

Concessions this past game were the absolute worst I’ve ever seen, in 30 years of going to games. Unbelievably bad. One more reason more and more people stay home and watch on HDTV

Tatman

September 12th, 2013
9:14 am

The crowd noise was intense just listening to it on the tv. I hope that it remains this way. It’s a football game not a funeral…no need to be sitting on your hands. With reference to the on sides kick…that’s when I knew we were there to play!

Hiram Mama

September 12th, 2013
9:14 am

I thought the atmosphere at the Dawg Walk felt like we had beat Clemson by a mile…it was incredible. Can’t wait to get back for the LSU game and lose my voice again! GO DAWGS! Oh, and I thought the music they played during warm ups was much better/current than in years past.

NCDawg

September 12th, 2013
9:52 am

The home field advantage is tangible. Without the extra noise and the overall emotional boost it provides the game might not have turned out the way it did. I have seen fans over the years justify the lackluster energy with the old ” we’ll cheer when you give us something to cheer about.” I don’t know if anybody has thought about this but it’s THIS attitude that holds the program back.

The home field advantage is worth a couple of big wins every year. Lately we have not had this. But here is the truth… fan participation and home field advantage are a “chicken and the egg” situation. If the fans slack off the advantage wanes and the home team might as well be playing a road game. It can effect the outcome of the game and then after a few such losses you get the “well give me something to cheer about…” situation.

93000 people should be able to produce at least 16% more noise than the crowd at Death Valley does. That would be a major advantage. It’s not just noise however… it is concentrated emotional fuel for the players because the crowd “believes”. This is not some mumbo jumbo folks…it’s real.

Anyone fortunate enough to be able to see the LSU game should keep in mind that they have the unique opportunity to “will” our Dawgs to victory. Get in the game and let it all hang out. You’ll like the results.

ATC_Grad

September 12th, 2013
10:08 am

It’s easy for the crowd to get noisy when the team is winning.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 12th, 2013
10:17 am

One issue with crowd noise is the stadium’s architectural design. Its a very small contributer, but the stadium kind of extends more outward than up, and the open end zone with the bridge allows sound to escape as opposed to a place like LSU where its a closed bowl that skies up fairly steep. All the more reason for fans to get EVEN LOUDER when the corn dogs come in

BrianP85

September 12th, 2013
10:17 am

The crowd noise always disappoints me in Sanford Stadium when I compare it to LSU, Tennessee and other notable stadiums. I leave there hoarse from screaming and it kills me to see folks standing and watching in stone-silence like they’re viewing the Grand Canyon. The crowd noise was pretty good saturday, but I hope we ramp it up a few notches for LSU like the Auburn “Blackout” or the LSU game several years ago when we won 45-13. Those games stick out in my memory as a true, “hostile environment,” for the opposing team.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 12th, 2013
10:20 am

As sad as it is, our fanbase is akin to that of a Philadelphia: they can be some of the loudest and most raucus in America when all is well but at the first sign of trouble the boo birds will start coming out in bunches

SimpleDawg

September 12th, 2013
10:37 am

The “Game Day Experience” in Athens has been on the decline for many years. The atmosphere is still electric, the girls just as pretty and just as plentiful, but the hassles of attending continue to mount. The parking restrictions and the cost, the tailgating issues, idiot control verses not nit-picking regular folks, delays entering, intense searches for the small amount of liquor one could conceal…..and the concession debacle inside the stadium all make it easy to stay home and watch on TV.

But….somebody has got to be at the game to create “home field advantage”……

Unfortunately, that has mostly been left to the very young and the very old.

RanDawg

September 12th, 2013
10:37 am

-I agree the fans were great Sat’d. overall,but we CAN do better,esp. in the SkyClub.I’m a long time season ticket holder and feel very fortunate to have tickets in that section…..However,I’m one of the VERY few people that even stand up and cheer…Most of the women are on their cellphones and guys just seem to sit there and stare…..This last game,the guy sitting in front of me actually started covering his ear that was closest to me when I would yell and turn and look at me and shake his head…I’m thinking,heh,it’s a ball game!….I may be old(class of ‘71) but I can still yell and those folks in the SkyClub (most younger than me!) need to do the same!!

EddieB

September 12th, 2013
10:46 am

Bill – Did anyone notice the low hit on Todd Gurley by Sharrod Golightly? It was in the second quarter. Gurely was stood up on a sweep, and SG circled behind Gurley and dived at his knees. No flag of course. Could this be reviewed by the SEC since there was no flag? He should be suspended. The play can be found on YouTube.

Cuz

September 12th, 2013
10:48 am

Keep it loud. Let em know they are in Sanford Stadium.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 12th, 2013
11:03 am

@RanDawg while I never have, and likely never will have seats in the SkyClub, I have had similar experiences sitting on the stadium’s South side. The North side is full of more of the average die-hard Dawg fans who came in and got tickets off StubHub or scalpers and are in it to participate in the gameday atmosphere. The South end has some fans who are lifelong die-hards who have had seats forever and participate, and some who are there just to make social appearances

AltamahaDawg

September 12th, 2013
11:14 am

The crowd in the SkyClub isn’t rowdy?

Refdawg

September 12th, 2013
11:18 am

UGA has to do something about the music played before and during the games. It has to be modernized and completely re-done. I’m sorry if you’re older and don’t like hip hop or Sandstorm or that kind of thing, but deal with it. The students love it and the players love it and we need that kind of thing to really get Sanford rocking.

dawggirl

September 12th, 2013
11:32 am

Thanks, Bill. It’s really good to hear that the crowd was loud. I was in attendance on Saturday (327 section) and I swear it didn’t seem that loud to me. I felt like it could have been a lot louder. Some people stood and yelled, others sat and clapped. It was somewhat frustrating, but I did hear that other sections were raucous and loud.

The concessions weren’t an issue for me (out of town visiting boyfriend was all too happy to get his girl a drink), but there was one hawker in the stands almost the entire time. Had an absolutely wonderful time and was beyond thrilled with the outcome. Hope that LSU is a night game.

dawgfan

September 12th, 2013
11:38 am

Too many people view a UGA game as a social engagement instead of a mega college football game. I like tailgating as much a the next guy but that’s not why I’m there. I’m there to see big time college football. If you aren’t so pumped that you want to line up on the kickoff team and knock someone’s head off you need to keep your wine and cheese arse at home.

Sandstorm sucks by the way. Definitely not the answer there.

zulucanibal

September 12th, 2013
11:48 am

Maybe we can cut down on the commericals a little bit between plays…that and the promotion of some wanta-be country hick!?! what the heck is all that about….I traveled some 1500 miles to see the game and make some noise but the commericals and all the country music promotion was a bit of a downer.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 12th, 2013
11:49 am

@dawgfan

I agree about no sandstorm. Let the South Carolina newbies use that, they have no tradition before about 4 years ago so let them have their new style intro. I personally get pretty pumped by the Battle Hymn and Teenage Wasteland

I-DOG

September 12th, 2013
12:01 pm

Anyone see the T. Boone Pickens interview? I think it is interesting that he seems to be saying that it doesn’t matter what happened at Oklahoma State during the time period that Sports Illustrated investigated. He wants everyone to focus on what is happening NOW at OK State. I could understand if it was one incident that occurred a long time ago and there were things put into place that would stop it from happening again. SI is covering a period of about 9 years ending in 2011, I believe. Not exactly an isolated incident or ancient history.

Its like Aaron Hernandez saying “look, I may have murdered some people in the past, but lets look at this month. I didn’t murder a single person during September and that is what we should be focusing on.”

Pickins gave no specifics about what has changed or policies that are in place to prevent what is alleged from happening now. Excuse me if I have no confidence in his statement that there is no problem now.

NCDawg

September 12th, 2013
12:04 pm

Refdawg
September 12th, 2013
11:18 am

How about mixing it up? Something for everyone. Basically telling the older fans that have supported the program for decades to suck it is not a very good way to go about things.

NCDawg

September 12th, 2013
12:11 pm

I-DOG
September 12th, 2013
12:01 pm

Sad LOL… T.Boone has that affliction that hits people who are ludicrously rich. They think that money makes their opinion all that matters. And it’s somewhat of a threat as well because he is saying he “owns” Ok St and therefore attacking the program is in effect attacking him. He wants you to know he has the treasury to defeat ANY threat.

AltamahaDawg

September 12th, 2013
12:12 pm

ever heard of the L-5/S-1?
you will.

Baden-WürttembergDog

September 12th, 2013
1:06 pm

Back in the day, no ticket, no problem. And no wait in line for a drink, just reach down to your Styrofoam cooler at your feet for your next brewski or Boone’s Farm.

Oh, you might have to move when the train comes by.

High Hopes

September 12th, 2013
1:47 pm

I agree with Refdawg. The stadium was electric during the 2007-2008 seasons when “Crank That” was being played. Take it to the players and ask them what gets them fired up! Fired up players = Fired up fans.

NCDawg

September 12th, 2013
2:41 pm

AltamahaDawg
September 12th, 2013
12:12 pm

What the hell is L-5/S-1? that’s a head scratcher…

AltamahaDawg

September 12th, 2013
2:46 pm

Good that you don’t know. But a lot of folks know all too well.

ATC_Grad

September 12th, 2013
3:49 pm

What the hell is L-5/S-1?

A precursor to oxycodone addiction.

Bulldog Born & Bred

September 12th, 2013
5:14 pm

tell me why news about other schools gets more attention than Alabama when you here something about illegal recruiting does the media play favorites with Saban

NCDawg

September 12th, 2013
6:09 pm

Altamaha and ATC_Grad – that explains why I don’t know what it is…lol! I can’t take any type of narcotics.

Dawg89

September 12th, 2013
7:25 pm

My 12 year old son left our seats to get a hotdog at the start of the 3rd quarter. By the end of the third quarter, I started looking for him. As the 4th quarter got started, I was getting that panic feeling most parents hate. I figured I better get some help before the game was over and asked a very helpful police officer what we should do before 90000 people hit the exits. After taking my son’s description and putting out on radio, it wasn’t long before he was found still waiting at the concession stand for his hotdog. It was a different area than we visited earlier in the game and not where I expected him to go. I suppose its my bad for not going with him but he is 12. The concessions line shouldn’t take so long that you worry your son is lost or worse yet abducted.

I can’t say thanks enough for the police that made short work of finding my son.

AltamahaDawg

September 12th, 2013
7:55 pm

gentlemen, the internet.

but no need. It’s the lower disc in your back. It’s the one that give a lot of folks back pain. Especially after being on your feet all day.

My point is that not ALL fans are at a game to prove what sort of pretend warriors they are. Some are doing the best they can but their situation is not the same as when they were younger. And some of these guys are going to figure that out, one day, for themselves.

Dawgsfriend

September 12th, 2013
8:55 pm

I am still a little disappointed as I looked around at what I consider the Greatest Part of the FIRING UP the fans, the trump in the south stands only to see a large number of empty seats in the student sections and even some of the general seating empty. GET THERE EARLY AND GET LOUD DAWG FANS!!

AltamahaDawg

September 12th, 2013
9:37 pm

Are you sure that wasn’t the redcoat section? I thought the student section, (lower at least) was full, loud, and very engaged long before that.

Eddie...Lee...and..Ivory...

September 12th, 2013
11:32 pm

Bill, it’s Sanford Stadium where licker drinking and 9 win seasons are the norm!

Eddie...Lee...and..Ivory...

September 12th, 2013
11:49 pm

And 9 Win seasons are loved!!!!! Besides trying to win SEC and Natl Championships! LMAO!

HotDawg

September 13th, 2013
5:52 am

Schedule better home games and the loud crowd is an automatic byproduct

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2013
6:18 am

Scheduling SC at home was a good call.

Snoop Dawg

September 13th, 2013
8:07 am

And it all definitely has an impact on visiting recruits!! No reason Sanford cant be one of the loudest venues in the country!! Keep it up!!

gbal

September 13th, 2013
9:22 am

SO what was the reasoning behind putting the ticket scan system is. KISS send everyone hard tickets and tear them in half as the old days.

gbal

September 13th, 2013
9:25 am

Hotdog… That is not the case…. Been to these other venues, they kill us UGA fans….

We have ALWAYS had a couple of cup cakes on the schedule since I started going in the 60′S ….We have just always been a quiet group when it comes to fan support and then go let our hair down once a year in J’Ville.

NCDawg

September 13th, 2013
9:30 am

Funny how all the trolls, especially the Bama trolls like to say that UGA fans are the greatest “talkers” on earth… but we still have to have a BIG game to get the fans to make noise. If you want our guys to crush the cream puffs and get beauty contest points you might want to make some noise at those games too. Why would you want to play hard if it appears that no one cares if you do or not?

Just something for those who complain about the “lackluster” efforts against the wannabes and the griping about the home schedule. The party is where you make it folks. You can have a pretty damned good time watching the team beat the snot out someone too. But some of that begins with YOU, the fan in the stands. You want a slaughter? Then cheer for a slaughter.

gbal

September 13th, 2013
9:52 am

I find the commercials and a lot of the blaring music to be a distraction from the game and keeping the emotion up. Like when a commercial comes on TV at home… Time to get up and go focus on something else.

ARdawg

September 13th, 2013
10:24 am

@NCDawg
“You can have a pretty damned good time watching the team beat the snot out someone too. But some of that begins with YOU, the fan in the stands. You want a slaughter? Then cheer for a slaughter.”
=============

Heh heh, you certainly add the Gladiator point to it NC

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2013
10:31 am

who was the opponent for the game, at those other venues?

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2013
10:35 am

I was thinking the exact same thing NCDawg. All the folks that complain about the guy in front of them sitting, is going to be doing the exact same thing for large periods of the N. Texas game.