UGA football attendance is strong, but there’s no guarantee it will remain that way.

The SEC is aware that many fans are attracted to the idea of staying home and watching any major college football game on your big-screen TV — without having to donate money, buy tickets or battle traffic.

The scheduling of “guarantee” games against weaker opponents doesn’t help a lot, either. It will be interesting to see what happens if the SEC decides to add a ninth conference game — will the Dawgs schedule major programs for all three of the nonconference spots or still try to work in those cupcake games that nobody’s very excited about seeing.

And what impact will the expanded playoff have? Already, some schools appear to be backing away from some of those high-profile home-and-home series they previously had arranged to boost their strength of schedule. There’s even some doubt whether the Georgia-UCLA series scheduled for 2025-2026 will take place, the Athletic reported.

So far, Georgia hasn’t had any problems filling up Sanford Stadium for football games. (Tony Walsh/UGA) (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)

Beyond scheduling questions, the rising cost of seeing games in person — and the attendant hassles of travel — have diminished football attendance in a lot of places, so it behooves schools to give fans as many reasons as possible to make it to home games.

That’s why the SEC surveys season ticket holders at conference schools about their game day experience — to determine what works and what doesn’t.

In this year’s SEC Football Gameday Experience Survey, the SEC said it realizes that the team’s performance (with which Georgia fans generally are very pleased) is a “significant part of the overall gameday experience. However, we also know how important it is to continue improving other areas of the stadium experience, in order to make it more enjoyable for you. We look forward to sharing the results from this survey with your school, so they can build on our conference’s reputation of having the best game day experiences in the country.”

Quite a few of the questions dealt with aspects of game day that take place before you ever get to Sanford Stadium, or after you leave following the game.

Fans await the Dawg Walk before a Georgia football game. (Kayla Renie/UGA) (Kayla Renie/Dawgnation)

For instance, the survey asked fans how satisfied they are with parking. For my wife, Leslie, and me, the answer was: not very, considering how limited and expensive on-campus parking is, and how the cost of off-campus parking at schools, churches, etc. has tripled in recent years.

The survey also asked questions about tailgating, which we don’t do, but I’ve heard complaints from others about the limitations the university has put on it in recent years.

The conference also asked about traffic before and after the game — which, let’s face it, has been terrible for decades. However, Leslie noted that it seems to have gotten worse, with more aggressive driving complicating things.

Addressing another pre-game issue, the survey didn’t ask a specific question about this, but in a place toward the end where you could make comments, we said that closing the Sanford Drive bridge to pedestrian traffic before and during the game (making it a ticketed area) is, we think, the worst decision the UGA Athletic Association has made in decades.

In fact, I’ve yet to find any fan of any age who likes that decision.

The Redcoat Band is an important part of the Dawgs’ game day experience. (Tony Walsh/UGA) (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)

The bridge closure also impacts another area the survey brought up: whether we were satisfied with the traditional cheers, walks and chants. As the AJC reported last year when the change took place, a lot of fans are upset that making the bridge a ticketed area severely limits the viewing options for the players’ Dawg Walk through the Tate Center parking lot, causing fans to try to pack in at either end of the bridge for a glimpse.

I’ve still never seen a satisfactory explanation for why it was necessary to make the bridge a ticketed area, and it’s one of the major complaints about game day at Sanford.

The survey also addressed seat comfort, which Leslie described as “terrible,” looking forward to the day when Sanford finally upgrades to proper stadium seating instead of bleachers. As she said, “they’re the No. 1 team in the country and still have bench seats. They need to enter the 21st century.”

(And, no, we don’t find the portable seats with backs that you can rent to be very comfortable, either.)

On the other hand, the survey asked whether we were happy with our seats, and we’ve stayed in the same location since 1975, so, yeah, we’re extremely satisfied.

It generally takes fans a while to master game day parking in Athens. ( (

Another area addressed by the survey was how comfortable we were using digital/mobile tickets — I reluctantly have grown accustomed to the digital process. They also asked about the ease of access to and transferring of tickets, with which I’m very satisfied. We also are satisfied with the customer service provided by the Georgia Ticket Office. It does seem, however, that some of the ticket takers at the gates still need a bit more training on scanning the digital ducats.

The SEC’s survey also touched on a couple of areas that I know have generated complaints from many fans for years: concessions and restrooms.

While we answered that we were satisfied with the friendliness of the concession staffers and the cleanliness of the concession areas, for the most part we are not satisfied with the food and beverage quality, selection and prices. Since the hot dogs, etc. sold at the main concession windows are pretty mediocre, I always make a beeline for the Chick-fil-A stand, but Leslie said she’d like to have more choices in concessions.

(By the way, it will be interesting to see how the game day experience is impacted, if at all, by the impending sale of beer inside the stadium.)

Georgia fans enter the new Gate 1, located on Gillis Bridge, before last year’s season opener against UT-Martin. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)

As for the restrooms, it depends on what area of the stadium you’re talking about. The ones in Reed Plaza (and I assume in the renovated area on the South side) usually are just fine, but Leslie and I agreed that the old restrooms dating to the late ‘60s tend to be awful by the end of a game (“disgusting” was her word). They’re too small, have too few stalls/urinals, aren’t very clean and aren’t maintained during a game, with clogged toilets sometimes spilling water out into the crowded concourses on the lower level.

That can make the wait in line to use one (mostly an issue for the women’s restrooms in the old section of the stadium) even more of an ordeal.

The survey also asked about mobile connectivity inside the stadium. I’m sure it might depend on where you sit, but we generally find it adequate for voice calls and even social media apps (I like to tweet during a game), but rather spotty for texting.

Fans crowd Reed Plaza on the north side of Sanford Stadium in search of something to eat or drink. (University of Georgia) (University of Georgia/Dawgnation)

Several questions also dealt with the band and music at the stadium. We’re big fans of the Redcoat Band, which we think is a terrific element of the game day experience, though we wish it was better amplified when the musicians are playing from the stands.

We also wish the Redcoats and their music were featured more prominently, especially during the game, when the prerecorded music blaring out of the public address system speakers above us (yes, the volume tends to be too loud) sometimes can feel intrusive.

I don’t complain about the choice of music played over the public address system, like many fans do, because I recognize that it’s mainly aimed at the students and the players themselves (who seem to react to it on the field quite frequently, especially during warm-ups).

A good opponent, like Ole Miss last year, generally faces a louder Sanford Stadium crowd. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)

The survey also addressed the organized cheers. I think they work very well during the pre-game (calling the Dawgs, and the alternating “Georgia” and “Bulldogs!” chants by the opposite sides of the stadium).

However, during the game itself, the organized cheers mostly are directed to the student section (in front of which the cheerleaders are positioned), so they’re not much of a factor for the rest of us in the stadium.

Really, when it comes to getting the crowd revved up, the stadium announcer is much more important than the cheerleaders during the game.

When it came to questions about the video board, ribbon boards and sound, we generally weren’t satisfied. We’d like to see scores from other games displayed, more complete team stats shown during the game, and the clarity of the announcer over the PA seems to vary. Also, Leslie wishes that, instead of showing fans on the big screen, they’d focus more on player close-ups.

There also were questions about whether our decision to attend Georgia home football games is impacted by such factors as overall stadium atmosphere, length of the game, parking, traditions, weather, connection with the coaches, the team’s record, the opponent, the opportunity to socialize, the kickoff time, travel costs, promotional items given out at the game and connection with student athletes.

The main ones that we felt impacted our decision were the weather, the opponent and the game time.

It’s an exciting moment for fans when Sanford Stadium goes all-red. (Tony Walsh/UGA) (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)

The survey also asked about sources of information about the team. For me, it’s newspapers, social media and the official website, though I probably should have added “texts from my grandnephew Gabe,” who keeps the members of our family texting group up to date on what’s happening.

Another question asked how attending a game in person compares with watching on TV. As Leslie said, the viewing experiences are about the same, though watching on TV does provide more and better replays.

The survey asked how likely is it that I would recommend Georgia football tickets to a friend or colleague, and I have to admit that the answer depends on the opponent.

Frankly, I don’t think cupcake games against the likes of UT Martin and UMass are worth the time and effort of traveling to Athens and dealing with the traffic, parking and crowded concourses, though I’m happy that there are family members and friends willing to use my seat for such games.

Leslie added that she thinks the athletic association in recent years has “made it harder to go to the games,” rather than making changes with the fans in mind.

Overall, though, I think watching college football in person still is a very enjoyable endeavor, especially when it’s a great matchup. That visit by Notre Dame in 2019, when the entire city of Athens was electric with excitement, remains one of the most thrilling days we’ve ever spent following the Dawgs. And even games of lesser magnitude get the crowd cranked up at night when they do the fourth quarter covering of the stadium in red lights.

If you have thoughts you’d like to share about the game day experience in Athens, post them in the comments below or feel free to email me at and I’ll share some of the responses the next time I dip into the Junkyard Mail.


A&A Bakery makes a cake delivery to a 1983 gathering at the UGA athletic practice fields. (Tom McConnell/special) (Tom McConnell/Dawgnation)

For those of us who grew up in Athens or attended the University of Georgia, A&A Bakery, located downtown for decades, was, as my old classmate Frazier Moore put it: “the best-smelling spot on God’s green earth.”

A&A was a student favorite. Cheese straws were a sorority and fraternity mainstay, and UGA alum Michael Simpson remembers stopping by on his way to class for the “best cinnamon roll I ever tasted. Often the rolls were still warm. Delicious beyond belief.”

Likewise, many folks in Atlanta miss the coconut cakes and other treats they used to get at the Rich’s Bakeshop and love to talk about other favorite bakeries.

Really, just about everyone seems to have sweet bakery memories, and I share some of them in a column I wrote for the AJC.

You can find it in Sunday’s paper or click here to read it at And for even more bakery memories, click here for my Quick Cuts blog.