For many Dawgs fans, the 2017 football season actually gets underway in mid-February.
That’s when the Georgia Bulldog Club sets the deadline for contributing to the Hartman Fund in order to secure the right to purchase season tickets for Georgia football. This year, that deadline is Wednesday.
And, as is the case with so much in life these days, the cost of being a season ticket holder is going up.
In “adjustments” announced last May, the minimum required per-seat donations (the first since 2005) rose an average of 17.3 percent, with the amount varying depending on where your tickets are located in Sanford Stadium. (Faculty and student season tickets are not involved since they do not require donations.)
In the case of my own two lower-level seats, the required contribution went up by $50 per seat (15 percent).
On top of that, the conclusion of a two-part hike in the cost of the tickets themselves will take effect this season, with tickets to home games increasing to $50 each. (They went up to $45 two years ago, the first increase since 2008.) Of course, as the athletic department has been at pains to point out, UGA generally still will rank in the middle of the conference in what it asks fans to pay, even after the increases.
Still, with a decidedly underwhelming 2017 home schedule featuring Appalachian State, Samford, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky, it’s not surprising I’ve heard from a number of season ticket holders who said they were seriously debating whether to go all-in on Hartman Fund ticket packages or just pick and choose a la carte through StubHub.
That wasn’t really an issue for me. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1974, and can’t imagine not being one, so I dutifully dropped my payment off Monday at the Georgia Bulldog Club office at Butts-Mehre while on a visit to Athens.
But, I have to say, I’m hoping that, as the price goes up, the continued loyalty of us season ticket holders will be rewarded by an improved product.
That includes the aging facility itself. It’s fine to build new locker rooms for the team (the current top priority, apparently), but upgrades to the antiquated restrooms in the original concourse on the North side of the stadium are long overdue. Frankly, they’re disgusting, and we noticed this past season that, when the wind shifted a certain way, you could even smell them and the puddles of fetid water that run out into the concourse, from our seats!
As for the on-the-field product, I’m hoping to see a more diversified (and effective) offensive philosophy. Watching the Dawgs stubbornly try to run up the middle behind a woeful offensive line this past season, when it was obvious everybody knew how to stop that, wasn’t enjoyable. Not forgetting, of course, all those drive-killing false starts, too. Once you get past the first game or two, those are really unacceptable.
(Conversely, I hope never again to see a key third-down play where the smallest player on the field is tasked with blocking for Nick Chubb.)
On the defensive side (Kirby Smart’s specialty), I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping to see more of those “quarterback pressures” turning into actual sacks, and the red zone defense no longer being one of the worst in the conference.
Some fans, of course, would put their expectations on a higher plane, thinking that, in a year when UGA returns perhaps the best running tandem in the country and rivals Tennessee and Florida will lose some key personnel, the division looks to be Georgia’s for the taking, and the Dawgs should at the very least wind up as the SEC East’s sacrificial lamb meeting Alabama in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in December.
Me, I’m thinking that’s still a year away, what with all the rebuilding the Dawgs need to do on the offensive line and in the wide receiver corps.
No, I’ll settle for Smart’s second team winning the games they ought to win in convincing style (no more squeaking by a nonconference cupcake or losing to the likes of Vandy), not choking in games they appear to have comfortably in hand (ahem, Georgia Tech), and being competitive in the games that matter the most (particularly in Jacksonville).
If I see improvement in those areas, I’ll consider those extra bucks I had to drop off at Butts-Mehre this week to have been money well spent.
(If there’s something you want to discuss, or you have a question, email me at email@example.com, or connect with me on Facebook or via Twitter. And don’t forget to check out past entries of the Junkyard Blawg.)