ATHENS – Last week UGA athletics did something that, given the proximity to the season, struck more than a few of its constituents as quite remarkable: It let fans know that football season tickets were still available.
That wasn’t all. UGA also reduced the buy-in minimum for fans who wanted to renew their tickets.
It worked. The remaining season tickets, about 600 total, were lapped up within days by Bulldog fans. That amounted to 55,000 out of 92,000-plus seats for each game at Sanford Stadium in 2017.
Still, the lag time and the reduction in renewal requirement would indicate that Georgia’s home schedule, and perhaps some other factors, had an effect.
Georgia has six home games this year and none of the opponents are projected top 25 teams: Appalachian State (Sept. 2), Samford (Sept. 16), Mississippi State (23), Missouri (Oct. 14), South Carolina (Nov. 4) and Kentucky (Nov. 18).
“That could be part of that; I don’t know what the full cause is,” said Tim Cearley, UGA associate athletic director for tickets. “But, yes, we were thankfully able to meet all the Hartman Fund demand anyway. We didn’t turn any donors away. (And) the bigger takeaway is we have sold out. That’s encouraging.”
The Hartman Fund is the vehicle through which donors can buy season tickets. The donation gives one the right to then purchase season tickets. And the more you contribute the better your seats tend to be.
This year donors with at least 550 priority points (a point for every dollar donation) who contributed at least $275 per seat last year can automatically renew their tickets.
That’s drastically lower than last year ($1,201 points who contributed at least $250 per seat).
Another factor may have been the Bulldogs coming off an 8-5 record, which head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged was “disappointing.”
Ticket prices also increased this year: The face-value cost of a ticket rises to $50, up from $45 last year and $40 in 2015, where the price had been since 2008. And the required donation to the Hartman fund has also increased in 2017.
Finally, there’s also what pro and college teams are facing nationwide: The difference between the game experience and at home. In Georgia’s case, many fans have complained about the state of the bathrooms at Sanford Stadium, which led the athletics department to say it will take action.
So UGA sent out the e-mail last Thursday saying that season tickets were available, first to Hartman Fund donors, and then to the public. Over what Cearly said was two or three days, all the season tickets were purchased.
In fact, Cearley said that the only remaining tickets to be sold by UGA would be returns from other schools.
That doesn’t include the secondary market, such as Stub-Hub, where tickets are still available and usually are.
“In terms of us coming through and delivering through on the season ticket end, we’ve come through with that process,” Cearley said.
Georgia sold out every home game last year, the first with Kirby Smart as head coach, It finished ninth nationally and fifth in the SEC with an average attendance of 92,746. In addition to it being beginning of the Smart and Jacob Eason era, there were home games against Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.