The problem of student attendance at football games

semerson@macon.comMay 26, 2012 

GREENSBORO - Most games at Sanford Stadium are sellouts, but there has been an attendance problem over the years among one key group: Students.

The number of student tickets for each game, according to UGA, is 18,026. But Georgia officials estimate there are a few thousand no-shows each game.

So where are they? Some of the reason given for students not turning out is early kickoffs, where students are often still imbibing by the time the game rolls around. But that doesn't account for later games, and officials say the turnout issue has been consistent.

During Thursday's meeting of the UGA athletic board, school president Michael Adams seemed exasperated by the perceived problem. Adams said that measures were taken three years ago, but "the students have not held up their end of the bargain."

Adams' comment came in reaction to a set of six proposals brought by the board's student member, J. Wells Ellenberg. The six proposals were eventually adopted, along with one that was added during contentious debate:

Freshmen, who are perceived as being more eager to attend and likely to follow through on their ticket, will now get priority.

The board spent about 20 minutes debating the subject. It's unusual to actually have an open debate at these meetings. Those usually occur during executive session, or (one would assume) during pre-meeting informal talks.

One board member, professor Jennifer Samp, pointed out that student attendance at South Carolina home games seems much better, with students in their seats by kickoff.

Another board member, professor Jeff Dorfman, spoke up in defense of students who stick around longer than the four-year plan. This came after some discussion about whether seniority should be rewarded.

"I don't want to take football tickets away from a student who's doing a good job the whole time," Dorfman said. "But to me the beauty of large state universities has always been that we have classes in everything, and you've got a chance to take that weird class and discover that's what you want to be, and you change your major."

But board member Bob Bishop voiced support for first-year students.

"I think it hurts the University of Georgia for freshmen to finally get accepted to this great university, and come home that first weekend, and (people) say: 'How was the football game?' And (the answer is) 'I don't know, I didn't get a ticket, they won't give us a ticket," Bishop said.

Then Bishop made his position clear:

"I think freshman oughta get a damn ticket no matter what. Before anybody. Even alumni."

The student board member, Ellenberg, said there were two games in which the freshmen demand exceeded the number of available tickets. But in both of those games, there were thousands of students who had a ticket and didn't attend.

In the end, provost Jere Morehead amended the proposal to add the seventh provision, that the freshmen (first-year, first-time freshmen) get priority. It was left at that, without specifics, other than they were referring to home games. (Does that include Jacksonville? That wasn't clear.)

So here is the list of seven changes that were adopted, aimed at encouraging more students to attend:

1. Priority for post-season tickets should be based first on attendance (at previous games), then on seniority. In conjunction with this proposal, an appeals system should be created for students who have a legitimate, unexpected reason for missing a game, such as a family emergency.

2. The ticket donation deadline should be extended to Wednesday at midnight.

3. With the assistance of the Greek Life Office, Greek block seating should be expanded to accurately reflect the number of students involved with each member organization.

4. The week before a home game, if the supply of student tickets exceeds demand, students should have the opportunity to purchase an additional ticket, at an upgraded price, to be used for general admission by a friend or family member.

5. Students at the University's satellite campuses in Gwinnett, Tifton and Griffin should be eligible to apply for student tickets. That being said, priority should be given to students at the Athens campus, regardless of seniority.

6. Seniority should be based on a student's cumulative hours, as opposed to his or her UGA hours. This would accommodate for credit earned through testing opportunities such as Adavanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, but not transfer credit.

7. Freshmen should get priority.

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