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(University of Georgia)
Georgia fans traveled extremely well this season, including to the College Football Playoff National Championship.

About those football ticket price increases, and other UGA musings heading into weekend

Chip Towers

ATHENS — Been a while since we’ve done this. So let’s do it. Let’s clean out the ol’ notebook. …

What’d you expect?

If you’re a Georgia football fan, and certainly if you’re a season-ticket holder, no doubt you’ve seen that a “ticket price adjustment” is expected to be announced at the athletic board meeting on Tuesday. Seth Emerson reported that Friday without sharing much in the way of details because nothing becomes official until it gets board approval and is enacted.

Suffice it to say, ticket prices aren’t going down. We just don’t know exactly how much they’re going up. And that’s not the main thing, as Kirby Smart likes to say.

First, the fact is that Georgia has always been at the back of the line not only in college football but within the SEC when it comes to the price of its tickets for football games. Only last year did Georgia raise the price of a single-game ticket to $50 and that remains in the bottom half of the SEC and less than virtually every Power 5 opponent the Bulldogs play annually. They went from $40 to $45 before the 2015 season and were just $32 before the 2008 season. So this will be the fourth increase in 10 years.

So there has been a lot of adjusting here lately. This particular price hike may or may not have come anyway, but this past season’s success has hastened UGA’s desire for a revenue increase. And as we all know, the individual ticket prices is not where the real revenue comes in.

That comes on the donation front. Georgia is going to experience some changes there, too. For years, ticket “priority” — donation thresholds for the right to buy tickets — has been determined by an individual’s overall Hartman Fund score. Georgia calls it “score,” but it’s really just the cumulative amount of money someone has donated to athletic department over the years.

Then came the Magill Society. Initially instituted a couple years ago to help raise money for the indoor practice facility, it requires a minimum donation of $25,000 (to be paid off within a five-year period) or $10,000 in any single year to belong to that donor group. More importantly, those donations receive double the points toward ticket priority for football (for pledges of $100,000 and above) and 1.5 points per dollar below that.

Based on the Bulldogs’ success this past season and the tremendous demand for tickets to postseason games, there have been a lot of new donors directing their money to the Magill Society.  The result is a lot of new money flowing into UGA athletics and a number of those individuals surpassing long-time givers in ticket priority.

Georgia assures season-ticket holders at Sanford Stadium that they’ll be able to keep their seats even if a new donor now has more points that them. However, it does affect long-time contributors in the right to buy away-game tickets. We saw that take place during Georgia’s postseason run, when thousands of Bulldogs fans scrambled to secure a limited number of tickets for the SEC Championship, the Rose Bowl and the CFP Championship Game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Of course, those older donors can decide to also get on board and contribute to the Magill Society as well. That’s also happening to some degree. So it’s certainly a win-win for UGA Athletics.

But, hey, that’s how it works, right? Georgia fans certainly have wanted to see the football program the level of success the Bulldogs had this past season for a while.

And coach Kirby Smart wants to sustain it. He still has a long wish list he wants to check off, and it goes beyond the $100 million-plus that has already been allocated for the indoor practice facility, locker room and practice complex improvements and now the West End expansion at Sanford Stadium (which is supposed to be completed before the beginning before the 2018 season begins). Smart is increasing staff payroll, wants a newer and bigger weight room and other things to enhance recruiting and compete with the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world.

Of course, Georgia’s doesn’t have the world’s most attractive home schedule in 2018. Honestly, it’s not even mildly attractive. It includes Austin Peay State, Middle Tennessee and UMass and doesn’t get really interesting until Auburn and Georgia Tech come to town in November.

But coming to campus to see great games against great opponents is really not what it’s all about it anymore, is it?

How ’bout them Lady Dogs?!

Have you been keeping up with what’s going on with Georgia’s women’s basketball team? If not, coach Joni Taylor has the Lady Dogs rolling again.

Thursday night, No. 21 Georgia knocked off another Top 20 opponent when it dropped No. 11 Missouri 52-50 at Stegeman Coliseum. The Tigers came in with a 17-2 record.

The Bulldogs improved to 18-2 with the victory. Their only two losses are to Top 10 opponents Mississippi State (No. 2) and Texas (No. 6). Georgia is also 7-0 on the road, including its most recent win against No. 15 Texas A&M.

So Georgia is a real postseason threat again for the first time since Andy Landers retired. The Bulldogs are currently 16th in RPI and improved to second in the SEC at 6-1. Mississippi State and South Carolina are considered the conference front-runners.

Having won six in a row, UGA is on the road this week, at Florida on Sunday and LSU next Thursday. They won’t be back in Stegeman Coliseum until Feb. 4 versus Ole Miss.

So how have they done it? Kevin Mobley of UGA’s sports communications staff points out that junior forward Caliya Robinson is the SEC’s leader and ranks fourth in the nation in blocks (3.0 pg) while averaging 7.9 rebounds per game. And freshman guard Gabby Connally of San Antonio also has been terrific. She scored 37 points in the win at A&M and averages 2.5 assists per game.

“So much talent added to an already solid core,” ESPN women’s basketball analyst Angel Gray said of the Lady Dogs. “If you didn’t know already, they’re a team to watch.”

Men’s team slumping

As much excitement as there is about the women’s team, the opposite can be said of the men. Georgia suffered disappointing loss to Arkansas in double overtime on Tuesday. That was the Bulldogs’ fourth loss in five games and dropped them to 12-7 overall and 3-5 in the SEC.

While there is no shame in losing to the Razorbacks, who certainly got some late sharp-shooting from Daryl Macon (25 points, all after halftime), Georgia blew a 16-point lead for the second straight game and again had many costly turnovers, missed free throws and missed shots. And they continue to be a frustrating team to follow, with sometimes curious substitution patterns and occasionally the use of timeouts (see 31-5 Auburn scoring run).

It gets no easier for the Bulldogs, who will travel to Kansas State for an SEC-Big 12 Showdown game on Saturday. After that, they’re home against SEC front-runner Florida, on the road at Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, have upstart Auburn at home in Athens and then back on the road at Florida.

Georgia can still right its ship. But if it finishes below .500 in league play and comes up short of an NCAA tournament bid, coach Mark Fox can expect a harsh evaluation from AD Greg McGarity and might have to put up a good argument to keep his job of the last nine years.

Rose Bowl Fever

So in the course of researching and writing the series, “Top 10 Moments of 2017,” I’ve found myself having to watch a lot of videos and revisit a lot of stories from this past season. And every time I’m taken back to Georgia’s Rose Bowl visit to California, I’m reminded of what an incredible week and game full  of “moments” that trip was.

As I wrote in one of the pieces, you could easily select 10 “great moments” in that game alone. One of them that I had forgotten about is the third-down stop executed by Georgia linebacker Reggie Carter and Roquan Smith executed in the first overtime period.

Smith, the Butkus Award winner, generally gets credit for that play, which resulted in a one-yard gain on a counter by receiver Jordan Smallwood on third-and-two. And Smith definitely earned notice for his jarring hit that knocked Smallwood backward at the end of the run. But only after reviewing the play again did I realize how Carter had read that play perfectly, shed a blocker and made the initial contact that prevented Smallwood from getting to the edge and turning up-field.

That was just one in a multitude of plays made by both teams in that game, which is solidified for me as the best Georgia game I’ve ever covered.

More cool stories and featured coming. Stay tuned to DawgNation!

The original version of this story was changed to omit a reference to longtime season-ticket holders possibly losing their Sanford Stadium seat locations to donors with higher priority. UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said “that won’t ever happen.”