A longtime Georgia season ticket holder is upset with the way tickets to the game at Notre Dame in September are being distributed.
In a note to the Junkyard Blawg, the fan, who signed his letter Paul in Athens, complained that, not only were tickets reserved for high-level donors, but those fans who did qualify were allowed to order up to six tickets for a game that is as much in demand as this one, the first time UGA and Notre Dame have played in football since the 1981 Sugar Bowl gave the Dawgs a national championship.
When Paul contacted the ticket office, he initially was told that the cutoff for Notre Dame tickets was 75,000 cumulative Hartman Fund points, which left him without tickets, since his cumulative score after 27 years as a season ticket holder is 52,704. A subsequent widening of the offer still required too high a cumulative score.
But, Paul said, “What I was surprised, and frankly a little perturbed by, was that they were allowed to buy up to six tickets if they contributed 10,000 or more, four tickets if they contributed 3,000-9,999 and two tickets if they contributed 100-2,999 in 2017. Am I wrong to feel a little annoyed that the ticket office would allow anyone, really, to buy up to six tickets given this is such a unique and special game that we are not likely to see again for another 30 years?”
Paul wanted to know what goes into deciding how away-game tickets are distributed. Is the policy somewhat uniform, regardless of the game? Is there a goal for as many different people to get tickets as possible, or are they primarily trying to please large contributors?
To find out, I spoke with Matt Borman, executive associate athletic director for development and executive director of the Georgia Bulldog Club, and Tim Cearly, assistant athletic director for ticket operations.
First, some background: UGA is receiving 8,000 tickets to the upcoming game in South Bend. Of those, 5,300 were put on sale “to the donor base,” while the remainder go to students, faculty, staff, sponsors and family.
All of the tickets, which are priced at $170 each, have been sold, Cearly said. When there were a few hundred tickets left after the initial availability to those with a 75,000 cumulative score, the offer was widened to those with at least 67,000 points, “and that will exhaust the supply.” All those who were offered the chance were able to get tickets.
So, how is it decided who gets the chance to buy tickets to such a game?
Cearly said that, in drafting the ticket sale, “We tried to establish benchmarks based on prior history and demand for previous games.” The offer was patterned after the one for tickets to last year’s Ole Miss road game, except ticket buyers were limited to six tickets this time instead of eight for that game, to allow for somewhat wider distribution.
“The challenge is, you want to give fans a chance [at the tickets] but you also want to reward those who give at a certain level and incentivize donations,” he said.
The use of tickets for a big game like this to “incentivize” donations, rather than making them available to a wider group of fans, is “a sensitive topic,” Borman said, but “we’ve just got to find a way to take care of those individuals who are giving at the highest level to the Bulldog Club. We have a ton of great supporters who unfortunately can’t get tickets. But there’s got to be a line drawn somewhere.”
The Bulldog Club/Hartman Fund, he noted, raises about $32 million a year to help pay the university back for student athletes’ scholarships and to fund day-to-day operation of the athletic department.
The number of tickets the school got for the Notre Dame game is comparable to other road games. The largest number of tickets UGA gets to road games currently is 10,000 for Auburn and South Carolina, though that’s going to be reduced in future years to match the 8,000 that Georgia is now providing to visiting schools for games at Sanford Stadium. Depending on the venue, UGA sometimes gets as few as 5,000 tickets to some other road games.
Cearly said that the athletic department recognizes that a lot of fans will be disappointed about not getting a shot at Notre Dame tickets, but, “compared with other games, we think this was a pretty good solution.”
What do you think of the policy of using road-game tickets to reward higher-level donors? Is it a fair trade-off for their greater financial support of the program, or would you prefer to see some other method used that treated all fans equally? Feel free to share your views in the comments section.
Now, let’s get to some more Junkyard Mail …
Bill, I keep hearing fans talking about Georgia’s quarterback battle between Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, but I have to agree with what [former UGA coach] Jim Donnan said, that it’s not really that much of a contest at this point. Eason is way ahead of Fromm, and I see no reason he shouldn’t start the first game. I know you’ve expressed similar sentiments before. Is that still how you feel after seeing the G-Day game?
— Harry Crews
My view has not changed, Harry. I like how Ian Boyd of SBNation summed it up recently: “The talk of Georgia turning to freshman QB Jake Fromm is, frankly, ridiculous. Fromm’s spring game benefitted from facing the second-team defense and off coverage that made quick and efficient hitch routes an easy way to pad stats and generate results. Eason has shown real poise and playmaking without a dominant supporting cast while working against some of the better defenses in college football. If he can get through his progressions just a tad faster after this next offseason working with his young targets against a potentially dominant pass defense, he could be the difference for Georgia in a still reviving SEC East.”
I also heard from quite a few fans about the future of the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, which I wrote about last week. Most supported moving the game to home-and-home or some sort of rotation of cities. Here are a couple of fans’ views …
Dear Bill, How about alternating neutral sites for the Georgia vs. Florida series? They could alternate between Jacksonville and Atlanta. Both sites have NFL stadiums and this would definitely keep the game in the national spotlight. It would also share the travel hassles with the Gators and their fans, and put a new and unique twist on its classic environment for a football game. Thoughts? Love your Blawg!
— Daryl Dykes (UGA BS ’83)
And another …
College Football is constantly changing … as it should. Traditions are great, but sometimes it is nice to start new traditions. It’s time to consider a 4 location rotation: Jacksonville, Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Gainesville and Athens! This would create a whole new dynamic for a great rivalry. This would be great for fans, in my opinion.
— David Rosenberg
Such a rotation has been suggested before, but I’m not sure what alternating between Atlanta and Jacksonville really would accomplish. The point I was making about the future of the Georgia-Florida series in Jacksonville isn’t about whether it’s a truly “neutral” site or not (as long as the crowd split is 50-50, it’s neutral in terms of the game, if not the surroundings).
The issue I was discussing was whether the schools (UGA in particular) can afford to have their home schedules continue to be weakened by not having the game played on campus in an era when every game is televised and many season ticket holders are complaining about less-than-compelling matchups in Athens.
Also, when I talk about the economics of college football determining the game’s future, I’m not talking about the income from that single game. As DawgsOnline pointed out in response to my earlier Blawg, with ticket prices $70 and up, Georgia’s share of the gate in Jacksonville is more than they’d make selling out a home game at normal prices every other year.
But, I’m looking at the bigger picture, which is UGA needing to bolster its home schedule to keep Hartman Fund money flowing in at a steady rate from season-ticket purchasers. In the short term, there probably are enough potential season-ticket buyers out there willing to make the necessary contribution and take the place of those folks I keep hearing from who say they’re bailing out of the Georgia Bulldog Club, or considering it. But, in the long run, with college football attendance in general starting to fall, the athletic association might find that well of donations isn’t really bottomless.
Speaking of which …
Bill: I am a season ticket holder since 1962, the year I graduated. I must say that I am disappointed with all the home “cupcakes” we have scheduled lately. This year is the worst. It is a chore to come to Athens just to see a scrimmage, and the cost is not cheap, either. I hope future schedules will have less of these type games. A good team likes to play worthy opponents every week, and especially before the home crowd. Of course, I am getting older, but I am seriously thinking about giving up my tickets. Most of the games are on TV anyway, and Georgia needs to find a way to make those of us loyal fans want to come. Scheduling quality opponents in my opinion is one way to do that!
— Frank Redwine
Adds another fan …
The root problem is the fact [Georgia] Tech and Auburn are on the same home/away schedule. Tech has the same complaint with UGA and Clemson being on the same home/away pattern. Why not a one-off UGA-Tech game at the new Georgia Dome to shift the home/away rotation?
— Kirk Carter
That’s an interesting idea, Kirk, and would solve that part of the problem. However, based on what’s happened in the past in both football and basketball, I seriously doubt Tech would agree to play UGA in Atlanta at any venue other than Grant Field. They wouldn’t want their fans to be outnumbered in their home city!
I also heard this week from a number of fans who are upset at the current overall state of UGA athletics in the wake of disappointing seasons for several marquee sports (with at least one head coach getting fired), the school getting swept in five major sports by the University of Florida, and news that UGA won’t be getting the NCAA tennis championships back any time soon, due at least in part to the state of the school’s aging tennis facility. Here’s one reader’s take …
Losing the ability to host the NCAA Tennis Championships should be the tipping point in McGarity’s Reign of Error as UGA’s athletic director. It’s an outright embarrassment! To learn it could’ve been avoided had McGarity opened the purse strings on $77 million of booster and donor money [to improve UGA’s tennis facility] makes me angry. … Greg McGarity is a poor shepherd for Georgia. Almost every sport is worse under his watch. .… It is time for [UGA President Jere] Morehead, the [athletics] board, big money boosters, and more prominent alumni … to do something about ending his time in Athens.
— Matt Cafaro
There’s no denying that UGA’s overall showing in athletics — great in the Olympic and country club sports, but disappointing in the revenue-producing sports — has a lot of supporters ticked off, especially coupled with the recent emphasis on squeezing more donations out of the fan base.
Still, I’ve been around Bulldogs athletics long enough to know that McGarity’s future as its head rides largely on how the football team does. If Kirby Smart wins championships, there likely won’t be much of a appetite among the powers that be to change athletic directors. If Smart falls short, however, that could change.
(If there’s something you want to discuss, or you have a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me on Facebook or via Twitter. And don’t forget to check out past entries of the Junkyard Blawg.)