UGA attacks problem of student football attendance - again

semerson@macon.comFebruary 12, 2013 

ATHENS - Student attendance at Georgia home football games continues to be a problem. And the school continues to look for ways to fix it.

The UGA athletic board voted on Tuesday to try a novel approach: Starting with the 2013 season - which has some marquee home games - a bit more than 2,000 tickets a game will now be made available to young alumni.

That entails those who have graduated from the school within the past five years, and that includes undergraduate, masters, doctoral and professional students.

Of the 17,910 student tickets available for each game, since 2009 the average scan rate (or turnout) has been 11,800, according to UGA.

"Needless to say that's a hole in our stadium," athletics director Greg McGarity told the athletic board, during public session on Tuesday evening. "We've sold the tickets to our students but they've not shown up."

Essentially, the seats available at Sanford Stadium (92,746 capacity) will be cut from 17,910 to 15,856. The balance will go to the young alumni. But any student who wants a ticket will still be able to get one. The trick is that turnout has been so low - the highest recorded turnout for students was 15,450, for the 2011 game against Auburn.

So UGA is basically "over-subscribing" the amount of tickets it will dole out to students and young alumni, the equivalent of an airline overbooking a flight. But it's not expecting any issue with the fire marshall, based on the low historic student turnout. That's even with home games against South Carolina and LSU scheduled for September.

McGarity told the board that the athletics department's mantra was: "We've got to come up with something to solve the problem."

Afterwards, McGarity said they felt like 2,000 was a "fair number" to give to the young alumni.

"We need to fill the stadium," McGarity said. "It doesn't look good to have vacant seats there. So what can we do to be proactive and guard against that. ... We're still more than likely gonna have tickets to sell."

Typically, the school finds out well before home games how many student tickets are unsold, and then sells them to the general public.

The price of a student ticket is $5 per home game. The price of a "young alumni" ticket will be more expensive: $40. But in the first year the buyer will not have to pay the "donation credit" (or seat-license fee) that a non-student typically has to purchase. That would have been $500.

But the "young alumni" ticket will have a seat-license fee of $250 attached in the second year. And in the third year, the young alumni ticket will require a full $500 donation.

Outgoing school president Michael Adams told the executive board that he had lunch on Monday with SEC commissioner Mike Slive, and that when Adams told Slive about the plan, the commissioner's "eyes lit up."

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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