ATHENS — After the Georgia football team’s run to the National Championship Game, which will result in raises for Kirby Smart and his assistants, UGA has raised the ticket prices for home football games, effective immediately.
The new prices will be on a two-tiered basis: $75 for each game against a Power 5 team and $55 for games against other teams. Last year, the cost was $50 per every game.
That makes the season ticket price for this year $465, up from $300. Neither figure includes the donations to the Hartman Fund, which are required for the right to buy season tickets. Donation levels are not being altered this year.
Athletics director Greg McGarity cited increased salaries for the football staff, among other reasons, for raising prices.
“We plan to make substantial adjustments to the compensation of our coaching staff,” McGarity told the UGA Athletic Board on Tuesday.
That includes coach Kirby Smart, who McGarity indicated after the meeting will be receiving a raise from his current $3.75 million salary. Raises apparently also are in store for many, if not all, of his assistant coaches after the team’s run to the National Championship Game.
“Football’s really our only source of revenue, significant revenue, order to maintain your other 20 sports at the level,” McGarity told the media afterward. “It’s not my intent to go to the other programs and have cuts. It’s not fair. It’s not the Georgia model because we treat all sports equitably. So, this was the way to fully fund those other sports at the same level we have.”
UGA president Jere Morehead told the board it was a “good problem to have” after the Bulldogs’ run to the National Championship Game.
“We have to recognize that football expenses have increased substantially in the past two years, and further increases are on the horizon,” Morehead said. “As our football program continues its upward trajectory, there are going to be coaching contracts that will need to be renegotiated. And we have to be prepared to continue to fund our football program, as well as our other Olympic sports, at a championship level. This is a byproduct of success.”
Board member Janet Frick spoke up during the meeting, expressing concern that the subject was not mentioned in the finance committee meeting earlier this month, and that specific details were provided just before a vote was requested.
“I think this proposal is probably warranted, but I’m, I don’t know, surprised, puzzled is maybe a better word, as to why the finance committee didn’t have a discussion of it, and why we’re getting these details without a lot of time to dig into it,” said Frick, one of several faculty members serving on the board. “I’d feel more comfortable if things that had to do with budget decisions were passed in that way.”
McGarity responded by saying he had discussions by phone with board members in the days before the vote. Morehead interjected that this was the time for board members to bring up any concerns.
After a few minutes of discussion, ultimately the board, which rarely if ever has any dissenting vote, voted unanimously to approve the raise. An email from McGarity was sent to faculty and donors just after the board meeting ended, explaining the ticket raise.
An athletics department official handed out data that said UGA’s average ticket price of $50 last year ranked 12th out of 14 schools in the SEC. The new average price ($66.42) will put UGA fifth, behind LSU ($70.83), Texas A&M ($70), Auburn ($67.85) and Alabama ($66.57).
That information does not include required donations, which vary from school to school. Factoring in donations, Georgia was tied for fourth in the SEC during the 2016 season in season ticket price, when using minimum price for a ticket and donation. It was tied with Texas A&M, and behind Auburn, Alabama and Florida.
The donations to UGA’s Hartman Fund, which are required for the right to purchase season tickets, was not changed.
Georgia has seven home games for the upcoming season: Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt (Tier 1), and Middle Tennessee, UMass and Austin Peay (Tier 2).
UGA saw an increase in football ticket revenue and football ticket contributions last year:
- $22.6 million in ticket revenue as of December 2017, an increase from $19.1 million the previous year. The school said “some additional” revenue will be reported in February “once all ticket sales for games have been finalized.”
- $9.5 million in ticket contributions compared to $4.3 million at the same point the previous year.
UGA has a little more than $80 million in reserve funds, including $47 million that it reports at each meeting, along with money in the UGA Foundation that is set aside for athletic support, which was $34 million as of last summer. It has said it cannot spend the reserves freely because of debt tied up in bonds.
As for the real price of a ticket, including required donations, the variables are so many — the different prices at different levels, donation requirements, home schedules — that it’s hard to come up with a purely accurate ranking.
Still, a few comparisons from how other schools priced season tickets in 2017:
- Alabama: Season tickets were $445 (for seven home games) along with a required annual contribution. Those donations range from $60 to as high as $2,500. Single-game tickets had a range last year, as low as $45 (Mercer) to as high as $125 (LSU) and $100 (Tennessee.)
- Tennessee: Season tickets were $420 for the cheapest tickets last year (for seven home games), plus a required donation for almost all seats, which could be as expensive as $2,500.
- LSU: The cheapest season tickets were $360 (for six home games), which didn’t require a donation. But other levels did require a donation.
- Missouri: Among the lowest in the SEC, season tickets required a minimum donation of $50. Per-game tickets varied; season tickets sold for as low as $150.
In addition, Florida season tickets for 2018 are $380 (for seven home games) plus a required booster donation. Required donations range from $150 to $2,850, depending on desired seat.