UGA, SEC making some noise as they struggle with the game day experience

Nobody needed to prompt the crowd to get excited when LSU visited Athens. (AJC file)

Nobody needed to prompt the crowd to get excited when LSU visited Athens. (AJC file)

OK, they’ve already loosened up on the replays and cut-ins from other games on the big video boards and are allowing the home school’s band to be amplified so they can be heard better throughout the stadium.

Now, the latest step in the SEC strategy to keep college football fans coming to the games instead of sitting back in the recliner with a beer and snacks and watching the game on a hi-def big-screen TV is to take a page from the ACC playbook. They want to try to get fans pumped up between plays by playing more recorded music over the stadium p.a. between plays and letting it run longer.

“They were able to do things in the ACC that we were not in the SEC,” UGA athletic director Greg McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald. “The rules have changed now for 2014 where we’re able to utilize songs and music up until the point when the quarterback gets over the ball. That’s a big change in the in-game atmosphere.”

Whether that strikes you as a cool idea or has you rolling your eyes or griping about overamplified assaults on your eardrums might have something to do with which side of the generational divide you occupy. You know, the you-kids-get-off-my-lawn syndrome.

The idea is to make it a more pumped-up atmosphere, like what UGA experienced at Clemson last season, McGarity told the Banner-Herald: “Those of us who saw what it did at Clemson, it energized their fan base with certain songs.”

“If you need to get people revved up for a big third-down play, you can do that,” McGarity said. “You could always do it with your band, but now you can do it any way you want to. You still have to stop once the quarterback gets over the ball, gets under the center or in the shotgun.”

Some fans aren’t buying what the Georgia AD is selling.

As Senator Blutarsky of Get the Picture points out, if you’re playing a cupcake game, it’s kind of difficult to get the crowd genuinely fired up: “Implicit in all this nonsense is an admission that the conference recognizes its on-field product is no longer compelling enough on its own merits for its fan base. … The obvious way to get SEC fans revved up would be to serve them a better home schedule with fewer cupcake games. But that tends to be a lot more expensive than paying for the right to shatter ear drums with a stirring rendition of ‘Zombie Nation.’”

Bernie’s Dawg Blawg also notes that game day atmosphere didn’t exactly seem to be lacking last season Between the Hedges when the game merited it. “We didn’t need canned music to beat LSU in that historically frenzied game back in October. We needed big plays. When those came, the fans rose to their feet and lifted their voices because the contest on the field motivated them to do so.”

On the other hand, younger fans tend to think the use of recorded music to get fans on their feet and create a more intimidating atmosphere is a good idea.

My UGA grad son Bill recognizes that it wouldn’t be popular with older fans, but he thinks tapping into the Atlanta rap scene more (not the graphic stuff) certainly would resonate with both students and the players on the field. There are some huge hits by Atlanta acts that all the players and students know and identify with, he says. If the stadium bosses played some well-timed OutKast or TI or Ludacris snippets, “the place would go absolutely nuts and it would tie the program a little closer with the identity of Georgia that’s strong among younger folks around the South and across country.”

Georgia’s rap scene is much stronger than any surrounding state’s, Bill notes, and this would give UGA an edge over most SEC brethren and build on the whole “Georgia’s team” identity. Only Georgia Tech could geographically claim a closer tie to Atlanta music and they are, well, Tech.

“Even people who didn’t know the songs could appreciate a beat and a stadium going nuts as they did with a few years ago when Soulja Boy was played,” Bill says.

Also, MrSEC.com believes there’s more to this than just trying to make the game day experience more enticing for fans. “There’s another angle at play here, too — recruiting. Each year, more schools are tossing out tradition in favor of mix-and-match uniforms that utilize black, gray, all-white and pink color schemes, to name a few. Teenagers like bizarro uniforms, so coaches and schools trot out bizarro uniforms. Now what do you think teenaged recruits would prefer on gameday — a fight song played by a live band or a blaring hip-hop beat or a heavy metal riff? Our money’s on the beat or the riff.”

Traditionalists might brand this yet another swig of “fake juice” and prefer sticking with the likes of the stalwart Redcoat Band instead of playing some rapper or hard-rock act, but the fact is that the alums, particularly the UGA alums who come to Sanford Stadium, are more prone to sit on their haunches, leaving the serious lifting to the student section when it comes to making noise. And if want to get the students going, there’s nothing like playing the music they love.

This sudden concern with between-plays music on the part of the SEC brain trust is part of the nationwide battle against declining attendance at college football games. The conference has a task force looking at new strategies, such as improving wi-fi access at games — a frequent complaint among younger attendees. Along those lines, UGA season ticket holders recently were asked to participate in a survey about aspects of the stadium experience, ranging from concessions and restrooms to the bands, cheers, video board, sound and more.

One of the key factors in attendance drops across the conference, ESPN recently reported, is student attendance. And that’s the case even at Alabama, where crystal footballs keep the trophy cases groaning. The Bama student newspaper, The Crimson White, conducted a study and determined that only 69.4 percent of student tickets were used during the BCS championship 2012 season.

Meanwhile, in Athens, UGA reduced its student-ticket allotment from 18,026 to 16,200 (and made more tickets available to young alums) in the face of sagging student attendance. Even then, despite overselling on purpose (17,212), UGA’s scanners revealed that an average of 28.8 percent of those students who bought tickets for home games didn’t bother to show up, ESPN said.

Is the Sanford Stadium game experience too traditional? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Is the Sanford Stadium game experience too traditional? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Various factors are at play here, and there’s disagreement on what’s needed. Benjamin Wolk, a UGA senior who is a football beat writer for The Red & Black, told ESPN he thinks one of the reasons for the no-shows is because of a stale game atmosphere that caters to the old money that wants the traditions of decades ago.

“One thing Clemson, Vanderbilt and Auburn all had in common was a crazy stadium atmosphere,” Wolk said. “At Georgia? Traditional music and a PA announcer barely yelling ‘Let’s make some noise’ on third down.”

However, my daughter Olivia, a UGA sophomore who’s among the first in the student section at every home game, disagrees with Wolk.

“Students enjoy the tradition,” she said. “They like doing the cheers and singing every home game. The homecoming game is the perfect example. Students love the 70-year-old cheerleaders who come back and cheer.”

What students don’t like or care about, Olivia said, is cupcake games, or games that aren’t closely contested. “If Georgia is up or down by two or three touchdowns, students don’t see the point in sticking around in the hot sun.”

Olivia said she understands “that cupcake games keep a winning record at home, but they don’t inspire much enthusiasm or electrify the way an SEC opponent does. The LSU and South Carolina games last season are examples.”

Students also hate noon games, she said. “It’s the worst time slot for a game,” especially when it’s hot and humid.

Of course, playing more music at games isn’t going to improve the appeal of a lackluster opponent or make anyone more comfortable in the noontime late-summer sun, just as showing more replays on the big screen isn’t going to attract the fan who’s addicted to his “ESPN GamePlan” satellite TV package.

Knowshon Moreno leads the dancing Bulldogs during the 2008 season. (Associated Press)

Knowshon Moreno leads the dancing Bulldogs during the 2008 season. (Associated Press)

But it could help add an element of fun back into the game day experience. If you’ve seen the Sanford Stadium stands suddenly come alive the past couple of seasons when some silly Top 40 dance number is played during a break, you get the idea.

Plus, harking back again to Soulja Boy’s brief reign in Sanford Stadium, Olivia said, “It would be nice to see the players enjoying themselves.

“I remember when they would play music and players would be dancing on the sidelines when plays weren’t happening. Students especially love to see the players having fun. Hopefully, the new music changes will allow for this some more.”

JUNKYARD MAIL CALL

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.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

102 comments Add your comment

dale conar

February 27th, 2014
10:20 am

I would love to hear some Muskrat Love blaring over the speakers. Nothing will get your blood boiling like some high octane Captain and Tenile!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 27th, 2014
10:35 am

strategy to keep college football fans coming to the games instead of sitting back in the recliner………

Lets see now…….

Declining economy
Gas prices and food prices increasing
Concession stand food outrageously too high
Season Ticket prices outlandishly too high since the late 90’s
Having to pay over $40 to park each game

And someone thinks playing music between plays is the answer?

LOL

Dog4Life

February 27th, 2014
10:46 am

Clemscum game–I think we were just too unprepared and got beat–all that music, holding up the buses to fire the fan base, and noise–well, let’s see–did it help against a well prepared Florida State? NO!!!! In fact FSU beat the stuffing outta clemscum–so much for noise and teen-age wasteland rap connection.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 27th, 2014
10:54 am

Dog4Life

you’re exactly right about that

UGA Insider

February 27th, 2014
11:08 am

Flat Tire nailed it. This economy stinks. Expect a steady decline every season for many years. College football has a major problem in regards to attendance with expanded TV markets.

I can see a day in the near future when there are 40,000 people in attendance for a cupcake game.

UGA Insider

February 27th, 2014
11:11 am

CMR loves cupcake games to start the season as well because he uses it like a exhibition game. UGA is usually not prepared by the first game and it shows when we play Boise or Clemson. or even USCe when we got blown out 35-7. We only practiced last August like 23 out of 29 times because of weather and such.

dc

February 27th, 2014
11:41 am

PARKING and too many RESTRICTIONS for parking and tailgating. It’s a workout to tailgate. Who wants to park in a parking deck and drag all your stuff down to the outdoor area or inside a deck? It takes away from the game day experience. I understand that they(UGA) want to “preserve” the grounds—but there’s only approx 6 home games a year–not even back to back. How difficult would it be relax parking for the home games? It just seems like the game day experience requires more and more MONEY from parking to tickets, etc.

Columbus Dawg

February 27th, 2014
11:46 am

This season Richt will need to have his team ready to play coming out of the gate, because that was a negative talking point made by elite boosters who met with Ears McGarity shortly before Grantham and Company exited Athens. I was told by more than one how embarrassed they were to see the Georgia Bulldogs travel to Clemson and look so unprepared before a national televised audience. Whenever UGA plays Clemson it is a big deal to older boosters. Todd Gurley looked like the only UGA player ready to play football that night even though he was injured early. Aaron Murray stunk it up with turnovers, as usual, and the defense could not make a tackle to save it’s life. Couple those with the special teams horrors, and there you have it. Richt is on a very short leash, contrary to what most pundits and Disney Dawgs would have you believe. the hopes are that the new staff will invigorate the WHOLE team, not just the defense, and honestly it looks as if Richt’s side of the ball will be the ones sucking hind tit in 2014. This line of thinking coincides with the weakness of UGA’s OL in recent years, coupled with the fact that there will be a HUGE drop off at the QB position. There are fears that the OL will not be “Man enough”, and that better defenses will crowd the los, slow the run game enough that a much more stationary target in Hutson Mason will be put in a box and rendered useless. Richt had better hope Bobo is correct when he says interior OL will be stronger in 2014. Richt tries to explain why his team always has one weakness or another, trying his best to make it all sound MUCH more complicated than it is, hoping that most observers will either buy his B.S., or just not understand it, but he does not give enough credit to folks who actually know something about the game of football. I know most don’t think it is true, but Richt needs to do well in 2014. In many people’s minds, he needs to win the conference THIS season, or his seat will be white hot this time next year. I have heard enough to belive that.

dc

February 27th, 2014
11:47 am

I think that from parking to high ticket prices/donations has deterred fans from attending. The atmosphere has become so low key and flat.

Whiznot

February 27th, 2014
11:47 am

Don’t let Richt make the playlist. Hymns are a downer.

Future Student; Class of 18

February 27th, 2014
11:58 am

As a future student who’s family has season tickets, I’ve been to many UGA games. The wi-fi issue is a mild issue. Yes, it would be nice to get a text and give texts to friends who can’t watch the game, especially cupcakes not on TV, but with game stats and scores from other games shown on the scoreboard, it’s not necessary. I have tried to get on twitter while tailgating and after the game, and I couldn’t. This is not a Sanford Stadium problem, it’s a whole Athens problem! The cellular infrastructure can’t handle all the extra phones and data that comes with gameday. Besides, the only time I’ve gotten on the Internet during a game was at halftime. I’m too in the game all the other times! If you don’t go to a game just cause of wi-fi, don’t come!

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:00 pm

I’m going to have a hard time watching Mark Richt Football on TV this year, let alone giving up an entire Saturday to see it live at Sanford. There’s parking hassles, long walks, heat and last but not least money problems. It’s an all day affair. No way in hell I’m going through all that to see us muff punts, miss blocks and whiff on tackles in person.

I’ve been seeing it for almost 9 years now.

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:07 pm

Amen Columbus Dawg. Keep fighting the good fight man. Don’t let the Disney Dawg Kool Aid chugging Richt lovers get you down. Always remember where their allegiances lie.

It isn’t with the University of Georgia.

Denver Dawg

February 27th, 2014
12:11 pm

I’m with Columbus Dawg – if you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind…

IT’S BEEN 9 YEARS SINCE WE WON THE SEC!

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 27th, 2014
12:21 pm

DawgPooP is Tech Trash? Spurrier Still SUX are you saying Insider Tech Trash Too? Knew they were PooP-Aiders. Dawg fans know a PooP-Aider is no better than Tech Trash – good term for them Spurrier Still SUX.

One of the top 5 OT’s in the nation visited UGA last week and not one peep from the AJC. You jealous of Mark Richt need to get off your Nintendo and go outside once in a while. The Sun comes up out there. That’s why the “current” fans can’t stand to be in the Sun at ball games. They have . never been outside before. Nothing but airhead video games 24/7. You need to get some sunlight – melatonin is necessary for your health and when you are low on it you have this ill, biotchy, hate everybody, everything mood like dawgPooP & Ugly Insider. Biotch Biotch Biotch all day 24/7 worlds coming to an end mood. Get some sunlight – get a life!

Columbus Dawg

February 27th, 2014
12:25 pm

Don’t get me wrong guys, I’m not advocating for running Richt off, I would like nothing more than to see him succeed, I am just passing on some info that I have heard. I do believe this with all my heart, if there is not competition at ALL spots on the team this year, I am afraid there will be more of the same. I am of the opinion that strong competition should be held EVERY spring for players to get a leg up going into fall camp, and yes, I believe that they should use EVERY practice opportunity given. I understand that coach Richt’s surgery played a part in 2013, but he needs to make up for it in 2014.

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:27 pm

Oh my stop the presses!!! A 5 star OL recruit made a visit!!! All hail Richt the Great!!

Let us know when Richt can produce 5 star results.

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:33 pm

If you’re not for getting rid of Richt what are you for? Do you honestly expect anything to change? We’re going on year 9 here of not winning anything. We keep seeing the same issues over and over and over again. Even if something improves something else takes a dive. The offense starts to click and the defense forgets how to tackle. The defense starts shutting people down and the offense starts giving the ball to the other team. It’s always something. It’s like whack a mole. Richt has been here 13 years. What has he ever done to make changes other than firing Willie a year too late? Nothing. I’m just not buying it anymore. Nothing will change. Richt is comfortable and that’s the end of it.

Nothing will change until we get someone else in charge. You’re just deluding yourself to think otherwise.

Our Fanbase is filled with Morons

February 27th, 2014
12:35 pm

If you really knew what Richt went through in 2013 and still is to some extent, you idiots would leave the man alone. I do agree, there is a sense of urgency in Richt for 2014, that’s why he hired Pruitt

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:41 pm

Melanie, I’d put on a dress if we finally one a title. That’s what it’s about to me. It’s not about the coach to me. I support a program and a university, not a coach like you “real fans.”

Please explain to me how Richt is capable of getting it done with FACTS or quit whining.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 27th, 2014
12:42 pm

La La Land I thought you said it was 35 and Michael Sam? He’s gonna get jealous.

dawgPooP – UGA is recruiting OL – they recruit OL every year. Wake up.

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:42 pm

What did Richt go through in 2013?

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
12:44 pm

John Theus was a 5 star. How’s that working out?

dawggirl

February 27th, 2014
1:00 pm

I think anyone who comes to the stadium and doesn’t expect to hear loud anything should stay home. It’s a football game, not a silent prayer.

Our Fanbase is filled with Morons

February 27th, 2014
1:02 pm

NOYDB

If I told you I would have to kill you

On the other hand…………………………….

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
1:04 pm

I didn’t say he didn’t give his best. I said nothing of the sort. I’ll leave blaming the players to you Kool Aiders. It’s what you do best.

He hasn’t been developed in to a 5 star player. That’s not his fault. It’s the guy making $3 million a year to coach 20 year olds in a game playe in tight pants. I blame him.

Please don’t put words in my mouth again.

dawggone

February 27th, 2014
1:15 pm

A lot of people don’t go to games in Athens as much as before because of the parking hassle. The parking is ridiculous now up there, you can’t park anywhere. You could park almost anywhere 15 years ago. Also, the opponents for 3 or 4 of the 6 to 7 home games a year are not gonna get anyone fired up to drive to a game. Have late kickoffs for the early season when its hot or games when the opponent is bad and it would help some. The prices in the concessions are also ridiculous. Anyway…GO DAWGS!!!

Dog4Life

February 27th, 2014
1:17 pm

Well i hope for Mason’s blindside sake that Theus lives up to the 5 star rating. I have high hopes for Pruitt–hope i’m not expecting too much.

Dog4Life

February 27th, 2014
1:23 pm

I know Pruitt runs a 3-4 (hybrid) ala Bama–but Bama has ILBers that weigh 240-250–3-4 demands big athletic ILBers to take on those 300+ guards. Our guys are 220-235–too light in many cases. However, I am excited about Pruitt and his youthful vigor and experiences as a winning DC–that can translate into a better D. 20 yr olds sometime need enthusiasm and confidence as much as talent–sometimes–we all know talent is important–but as a former player i have witnessed the smaller Terry Hoages play like they are 10 ft tall etc… they had great confidence and a good inspirational DC. It can work. I believe if we score 30 pts a game we are going to win a lot — the D (in my heart and hope) has to be better.

Bulldawg35

February 27th, 2014
2:12 pm

Flo ri duh & la la land!

Lmao!

Bulldawg35

February 27th, 2014
2:15 pm

Pruitt is Richt’s last chance! Richt doesn’t know special teams or defense! Richt has learned nothing from the cutting edge!

fishook dawg

February 27th, 2014
3:09 pm

Alabama doesn’t need fancy or crazy looking uniforms to be #1 in recruiting the last 3-4 years and neither do we. It’s really turned Maryland’s program around!! And a couple of cupcake game a year will help keep SEC teams in the playoffs going forward.

Dog4Life

February 27th, 2014
3:16 pm

I agree fish–bling makes no real difference–just ask maryland and even Notre dame–what has helped Notre Dame is Brian Kelly. Most programs in the high echelons of CFB recruit and win off their legacies of winning–not how pretty they are. Some crazy kid will always be an exception–but one goes to bama for the trophy case not the color of the uniforms.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 27th, 2014
3:21 pm

I love how the SEC is ridiculed for having cupcake games

yet every team from the Big 10, Pac 12, etc have 2 or more cupcake games as well

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 27th, 2014
3:28 pm

Lets see……..Uniform changes

Florida
Bama
LSU
Oklahoma
Texas
Auburn
USC
Ohio St
FSU

have all won National Titles in the last 15 years.

Can someone tell me; do those teams change their uniforms on a consistent basis?

Looks to me like those teams worry more about winning championships than what the tailor can design for a new uniform

Smaha

February 27th, 2014
3:45 pm

Get the students into the game earlier with merchant promotions and giveaways prior to the game plus have the students in front of line for the Dawg Walk. The real issue is the expense- cost of tickets, travel, hotels and most of all solve the parking problem at the stadium by operating buses from away parking areas to offer $2.00 rides to and from the stadium, or just she’ll bus pass privileges making it easier on the fan. More large transit vehicles means less traffic congestion. Even consider offering UGA or local band performances before or after the game ends for an hour.
Game time and weather also a factor as with most games televised, lot less expensive to sit in nice home chair to watch the game or attend or give a UGA home party game day .

,

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
3:49 pm

The atmosphere at the South Carolina and LSU games was electric last year because we were winning, not because we had Ludacris or Soulja Boy playing on the PA. Get real. This is laughable. We have a coach with a demonstrated inability to win big games and we’re sitting here worried about the music we’re playing.

This is unbelievable.

Bulldawg35

February 27th, 2014
3:53 pm

Heck SC is setting us up for another ambush……I’m afraid it’s going to be another 35-7 game!

dawgfan

February 27th, 2014
3:53 pm

Are we football program or a theatre company? Maybe we should start shooting for Tony awards instead of championships.

What a joke.

Bulldawg35

February 27th, 2014
4:03 pm

UGA won’t win a championship anytime soon….we just have to much going against us.

7576DAWG

February 27th, 2014
4:27 pm

It wasn’t the music that energized Clemson’s fans , it was the fact they were playing GEORGIA and a SEC opponent. The ACC needs gimmicks to help win games. The SEC had record attendance last year, they don’t need gimmicks to bring fans to the games.
If the music is playing at 120 decibels this year it will keep a lot of the older fans from coming. I know I won’t be there after the first game. Our people who are in charge of the loudness better find a happy medium for the young crowd and the older more reserve group. If you have raised any teenagers how many times in a year have you told them to turn down the music? This could be an issue.

Skokie Dog

February 27th, 2014
4:32 pm

@Bill King: Senator Blutarsky and Olivia have the correct answers to your questions.

The idea of blasting canned music at the fans to rev them up sounds like something right out of the Bud Selig playbook: never mind the game; just jolt the senses periodically. That’s what the fans really want. Right.

And the noon start times? Those are usually allotted to teams that have cupcake opponents. Come on, this isn’t rocket surgery, Mr. McGarity.

7576DAWG

February 27th, 2014
4:34 pm

The best way to energize the crowd is to not only bring tailgating back but bring it closer to the action. The drunker the crowd, the easier it is to lead . Which adds up to louder and more obnoxious.

old dog

February 27th, 2014
4:41 pm

7576 DAWG,
You are right on! When we were at UGA, the legal age was 18. The dorms were hopping the morning of the games with the beer flowing. It was easier to get two quarts of Jack Daniel’s into a game than it was to fall off a log in a lake and hit water. The student section was rockin’…………go back and look at some old Pandora pics. Not saying you have to be a total drunk, but now kids are castigated for drinking below the age of 21, and the University enforces it to the tee. Therefore, I reckon they gotta do something. You early and mid ’70’s Dawgs know what I mean…………………

7576DAWG

February 27th, 2014
4:44 pm

Another thing to fire up the fan base is for the SEC to go to a nine game in Conference schedule. If we have to play another hard game I would rather it be in Conference.

7576DAWG

February 27th, 2014
4:55 pm

Another way to fire up the fan base is TO BRING THE FLORIDA GAME TO ATHENS. I am a 1976 graduate of UGA and have never been ripped off in Jacksonville or the surrounding area and never will. I don’t think I am the only graduate that resents not being able to watch the game every other year in Athens.I will never support the game in Jacksonville. I also hate the Atlantic Ocean’s violent and colder water. I go to the Gulf.
I think the players answered the Question last year as to how they felt being back in Jacksonville for the Bowl game. I guarantee it would have been more meaningful to them in Shreveport or Nashville.

DawgVoiceofReason

February 27th, 2014
6:10 pm

Stop the presses!!! I actually agree with dawgfan’s perspective on something. Thinking the music really matters is idiotic. That being said if they start cranking up rap, I would seriously consider other viewing arrangements. Just win baby and everything else will take care of itself. The AD needs to get his head in the game.

DawgVoiceofReason

February 27th, 2014
6:13 pm

Disagree completely with moving the Florida game. That is one of the great experiences in all of college sports. You have missed out if you have not been to the WLOCP!

DawgVoiceofReason

February 27th, 2014
6:15 pm

You also have no idea what you’re talking about if you think anyone would prefer to go to Shreveport.

Derezzer 2001

February 27th, 2014
7:01 pm

ohhhh so that’s why they’re going to pass the 10 second snap rule… it all makes sense now