As students prepare for the fall semester at the University of Georgia, many find themselves buying everything from textbooks to futons. And one thing on many students' lists is football tickets.
However, with student tickets often in high demand and limited supply, tickets to all home games are not always guaranteed, as many students learned last year.
Many students were angered last year when roughly 20 percent of those who applied for the home game season ticket package were only awarded tickets for six of the seven home games, missing either the game against the University of Alabama or the game against the University of South Carolina.
University officials said they implemented the lottery in an effort to prevent overcrowding at the two games in accordance with recommendations made following the 2014 football season. However, the change in policy led to the issue of ticket scalping, as students almost immediately began auctioning off their tickets on Facebook groups, with some tickets, especially for the Alabama game, seeing prices in excess of $250.
As a result, the Student Government Association and the UGA Athletic Association shut down the direct ticket donation system due to fears of "illegal, excessive abuse of ticket privileges and ticket scalping."
“A lot of students complained to us,” said Houston Gaines, president of SGA, who was vice president at that time. “They said ‘I don’t think it’s right that students are selling other student tickets when some students can’t even get full season packages.’ We listened to the students, and we took their feedback. We wanted to be as transparent as possible.”
This year, the SGA senate and the Athletic Board of Directors have enacted more permanent changes to ticketing policies.
The ban on direct donations between students has been reinstated. Instead, students can only donate their tickets to a general pool. At the same time, the number of penalty strikes for unused tickets, before a student loses their ticket privileges, has been reduced from three to two. SGA also formally published a resolution urging the Athletic Association to "create a more fair and transparent system of awarding student football tickets," which passed unanimously through the senate and the Athletic Board of Directors.
The legislation clarifies the pre-existing priority system, in which incoming freshmen and spring and summer admits from the previous academic year receive priority for home football tickets, and undergraduates with the most credit hours receive priority for away game and bowl game tickets.
“The biggest problem with Alabama and South Carolina was that it wasn’t clear,” Gaines said. “Students for four or five years had been getting a full season package, and so I think it wasn’t well communicated to students that you may not get a full season package, and obviously that’s clear as day now."
However, Gaines and Tim Cearley, the associate athletic director of ticket operations, said the possibility of partial or incomplete package still exists should ticket demand exceed supply.
“In terms of preventing Alabama and South Carolina, if more students register or apply for tickets, that could still happen again,” Gaines said.
Cearley declined to speculate on how tickets may be distributed once registration closes on Aug. 22.
Should some students not receive full ticket packages, Gaines said he hopes the reduction in the number of strikes and prevention of direct donations will ensure that students without a ticket to a specific game will be able to get one from the pool.
“Because even [with Alabama and South Carolina], a significant number of students who had tickets did not use their tickets, and if they had donated theirs back, everyone who applied to enter into the pool would have gotten a ticket,” Gaines said. "We want to make sure that even for Alabama and South Carolina games that’s the case, [that] anyone who wants a ticket can get a ticket through the pool. That’s the hope.”