The Georgia Bulldogs controlled their own destiny at the end of the 2012 football season — defeat Georgia Tech, and the players would move one step closer to the National Championship.
The Georgia-Georgia Tech game became one of the most monumental games in Sanford Stadium history, but only 9,451 students showed up out of the approximately 18,000 who bought tickets to come.
“When students don’t show up, it’s an embarrassment,” Ryan Scates, student representative to the Athletic Board, said. “The SEC prides itself on how many people show up.”
Scates said, on average, more than 6,000 student seats go unused at football games. Out of the 17,910 student tickets available, only 11,802 attended games on average since 2009, according to a previous article by The Red & Black.
In response to lack of attendance, the Athletic Board developed the Young Alumni Program to increase the number of people who come to Georgia football games. The program includes cutting 2,054 student seats and reallocating them to young alumni — people who graduated from the University within five years.
Patrick Gray, associate director of development and annual fund for the Georgia Bulldog Club, said seats will be reallocated in sections 314 to 317, the northeast corner of the stadium near the train tracks.
“Just about every game, that’s the top of the stadium that’s generally empty,” he said. “It’s mainly the lower level and west end zone where most students sit.”
A risky cut
The Athletic Board isn’t cutting available student tickets, but rather available student seats. Instead of 17,910 seats available for students, only 15,856 seats will be open.
However, because the Athletic Board isn’t cutting tickets, student seats will be oversold by approximately 2,800. In the 2012 season, full-season tickets were awarded to 18,645 students, according to a previous article by The Red & Black.
That means if everyone who had tickets came to the game, about 2,800 wouldn’t have seats and overcrowding would become a serious security issue.
Tyler Andrews, a sophomore journalism major from Marietta, said he thinks more students will go to games because the football team had a successful 2012 season, and there is a lot of hype going into the 2013 season.
“For certain games, [overcrowding] could be an issue,” he said. “We have a really good home schedule this year with South Carolina and LSU. I think more people will be more inclined to come because Georgia will be in the top five or top 10.”
Still, Scates said the board isn’t worried about overcrowding because according to data since 2009, it’s never come close to being an issue, despite successful seasons.
“In 2011, we had one of the best home campaigns in history,” he said. “We went to the SEC Championship game, clinched the SEC East, but we actually saw attendance drop in 2012.”
Even if overcrowding became a possible issue, Gray said the football operation teams are prepared to combat the problem.
“On game days, the operations and ticket operations staff are in constant communication with not only the fire marshal, but keeping up with stand rates as people come in,” he said. “So, we definitely wouldn’t fall into a situation where there’d be overcrowding.”
In the last four years, the highest scanned total, not including the marching band, was about 14,650 student tickets at the 2011 Auburn game, Gray said.
Andrews said he doesn’t agree with cutting back on student seats, but the board’s head is in the right place in respect to getting seats filled.
“It’ll almost make it seem that the whole stadium is filled,” he said. “But it could be a problem if they double book and multiple people don’t have seats.”
Despite approximately 6,000 open student seats in the 300-level each game, more than half of freshmen claimed they were unable to get a seat within the student section, according to a survey of 100 freshmen conducted by The Red & Black.
Scates said those respondents probably couldn’t find seats because they weren’t going to the sections where seats were available and tried to find the best seats in the 100-level instead.
“I understand how certain sections can get overcrowded,” he said. “Maybe you have friends that got there an hour before the game, and the section is filled up when you get there, so they can’t find a seat where they originally wanted to sit.”
Emily Kendall, a sophomore pre-business major from St. Simons, said she thinks the program is a win-lose situation.
“There are a lot of students that won’t go to the game or only go to half, and that’s not fair if that’s a ticket you can give to someone who wants to be there,” she said. “But, a lot of students could be angered because if the section was full and they couldn’t find a seat, it’d be an issue.”
Opportunity for young alums
The young alumni are the most underrepresented group in the stadium, Scates said.
Gray said young alumni recently heard about the program, and the response has been successful.
“Just with online request forms, we’ve had a fairly good response,” he said. “Young alums are realizing this a great opportunity, and an opportunity that helps a lot of them as they try to establish themselves in the professional world.”
Scates said the young alumni are the group that have the most to gain by returning to Georgia.
“It’s an avenue to reconnect with friends and for those who have nostalgia of being back on campus,” he said.
Scates said that as attendance has gone down, the Athletic Board noticed the group that wasn’t coming back were those who graduated in the past five years.
To make coming back easier on the young alumni, Scates said the Athletic Board waived the first year donation fee to the Hartman Fund as well as giving the young alumni more points than what they’re paying.
After three years, young alumni will have 1,000 points in the Hartman Fund when they’ve only paid $250, Scates said.
The more points a person has in his or her Hartman Fund, the more likely he or she will retain the same or even better season tickets, build priority for away games and receive parking passes in the future.
Instead, young alumni will only need to pay the $40 ticket price, costing a total of $240 for the 2013 season.
Craig Russo, who graduated in May 2012, said the program is a smart idea, as long as it doesn’t hurt students.
“It’s nice for the young alumni to come back and go to games,” he said. “In the past, it’s been hard for them to get a secure ticket. I know friends who have graduated had a hard time finding tickets. They’re always searching.”
Gray said the process of requesting tickets for young alumni will be outside of the Hartman Fund process. May will be spent requesting tickets, while allocation of assignments will be made in June.
If young alumni already have Hartman Fund credit, they’re still eligible for the program, Gray said.
“We didn’t exclude anybody,” he said. “If you already make a donation and already have season tickets, but fall in the young alumni window — May 2008 to May 31, 2013 — we’ll still give you that donation credit on top of what you’re already getting.”
Payday for Athletic Board
Because the Athletic Board isn’t cutting the number of tickets sold, it’ll still be making the same revenue in student ticket sales in addition to the amount generated from young alumni ticket sales.
By selling the 2,054 tickets at $40 face value, rather than selling them to students at $8 per ticket, the Athletic Board will make an additional $394,368 for the 2013 season. In total, the sum collected for these young alumni tickets over the six home games would be $492,960.
The approximate $500,000 the Athletic Board will make doesn’t include donations for the Hartman Fund, which will start in the second year of young alumni participation.
Scates said after the first year, the young alumni will pay $125 per seat to the Hartman Fund.
Hayes Patrick, a sophomore biology and psychology major from Baton Rouge, La., said making more money is simply logical.
“If the tickets aren’t being used, they might as well make some money off of people that are actually gonna go to the game,” he said. “It makes sense.”
The Young Alumni Program will take effect beginning in the 2013 football season.