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(Hyosub Shin/AJC)
Expect a lot of Georgia fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for today's SEC Championship Game, but they could be closely matched by Alabama.

Georgia, Alabama fans waging intense battle for tickets to today’s SEC Championship

ATLANTA — Georgia and Alabama will be battling to put the most points on the scoreboard, but a pretty good competition is also being waged by their fans to put the most butts into seats for todauy’s SEC Championship Game.

Each school gets 16,300 tickets from the league to sell to their top donors. The demand for UGA’s was even greater this year than it was last year when the Bulldogs were making their first appearance in the title game in 12 years. Last year, the cutoff to qualify for the seats was $32,701, meaning a person had to have donated at least that much money to the school for the right to buy them. This year, that number swelled to $43,900, according to Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity.

“I’ve got a lot of people upset with me because they gave the same amount as they did last year but this time they didn’t get any,” McGarity said. “The good news is the Georgia people are still excited our team.”

And there are plenty of other ways for the Bulldogs’ fans to get into today’s game. Mercedes-Benz Stadium seats about 73,000 for the SEC Championships. Beyond the tickets controlled by the schools, the SEC distributes the remaining tickets for the game to the conference office, sponsors, suite holders, Falcons club-seat personal-seat-license holders and SEC Championship game renewable ticket holders.

According to the SEC’s 10-year contract with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Falcons PSL holders control 6,200 SEC Championship game tickets – 1,000 lower-level club seats to “VVIP” PSL holders and 5,200 seats in unspecified locations to other club-seat PSL holders. It’s suspected that a lot of those seats will end up with Georgia fans in them.

But the remainder of the seats come from the SEC’s renewable tickets pool. When the SEC Championship was first started in 1992, the league offered tickets on a year-renewable basis. Many of those tickets ended up getting snapped up by Alabama fans, who saw the Crimson Tide play in four of the first five games.

The excitement surrounding this year’s Alabama is pretty high, too. This Crimson Tide team, currently ranked No. 1, is considered one of the best ever fielded by coach Nick Saban and is a runaway favorite to win the national championship.

So, just like last year’s National Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama, which decided in overtime, expect the battle for most fans in the stadium to be close.

Meanwhile, the excitement over the Georgia football program and its direction under coach Kirby Smart continues to be high. McGarity said donations to the school’s Magill Society, which assure football ticket priority, is approaching $90 million. He said 938 members have pledged donations totaling $88.8 million since the Magill Society initiation began in 2015.