Student Notre Dame Tickets

UGA students cheer for Georgia during a football game against Notre Dame on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated the Fighting Irish 23-17. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

The Sept. 21 Georgia-Notre Dame game drew an unprecedented audience to Sanford Stadium — 93,246 fans ranging from Notre Dame devotees, University of Georgia alumni, students and other fans. The highly-anticipated game created nationwide buzz as the Bulldogs edged out a 23-17 win. 

Some students, though, were less than satisfied with their experience at the historic game. Students complained of being shuffled around by stadium staff and being told to leave despite having purchased tickets.

In the days following the game, students took to social media. Senior Jessica Phillips, who posted her story online, said the night was the “most awful experience” she’s had at UGA.

The Red & Black spoke to several UGA students, many of them seniors, who paid and obtained a full student ticket package, which includes all seven games in Athens. Each student said they entered the stadium an hour or more before kick off, failed to find seating in the student section and were redirected to sections 300 or 600 by event staff.

Non-student ticket holders sat in the 300 and 600 sections so student-ticket holders had to leave, students said. Students alleged mistreatment from staff, Notre Dame fans and police officers in the stadium.

UGA negotiated a deal with Notre Dame in 2014 to schedule two games — one in South Bend, Indiana, and one in Athens — and promised 8,000 tickets for Fighting Irish fans in Sanford Stadium. 


“We failed, we had people who didn’t get the experience they wanted, but I do want people to know we genuinely care about their experience.” 

-Josh Brooks, deputy athletic director for operations 


 

In order to accommodate the extra number of fans, UGA used 500 seats in the West End Zone student section to accommodate Notre Dame visitors sitting in the designated visitors’ section. In addition, UGA installed temporary aluminum bleachers in the West End Plaza underneath the scoreboard behind student sections 139-143 to accommodate the overflow from the West End Zone student section. 

In an interview on Sept. 24, Deputy Athletic Director for Operations Josh Brooks addressed issues raised by students. In reference to staff members sending students to section 600, Brooks said that was a “huge miscommunication” and students would normally never be placed there. 

“I’d like it to be known that we care and we listen,” Brooks said. “We failed, we had people who didn’t get the experience they wanted, but I do want people to know we genuinely care about their experience.” 

In an email ahead of the game, Brooks had said stadium staff were “prepared for all scenarios.”

“We are bringing in additional staffing to assist with security, ingress, keeping campus clean, etc.,” Brooks said. 

By the instruction of stadium staff, Jae Choi, senior biological science major, said she and her friends were directed to sit in section 306 but were later removed by people who had paper tickets in that section. They were then told to relocate to section 600, a predominantly Notre Dame fan area. Choi claims the fans verbally attacked her and her friends and told the students “show us your tickets or leave now.”

“We were sick of all the harassment and being tossed here and there, we couldn’t even stand to watch the game. We ended up being forced to leave [by the police],” Choi said. 

As the group of seniors left the stadium, Choi said they saw multiple students tearfully arguing with staff members. This prompted Choi’s friend to “burst out bawling,” after wishing to be a part of “one last, huge game” his senior year. 

Football seating fiasco graphic

Students were unhappy in the way Georgia Athletics handled student seating during the Notre Dame game on Saturday, Sept. 21. 

Caroline Stevens, a first year doctor of pharmacy student, found an open area near a railing during the game but was asked to move by a police officer. Stevens asked the officer where she could relocate — the officer allegedly became “verbally aggressive.”

“As I was going down the stairs, the officer came and grabbed me by the arm to drag me out of the stadium,” Stevens said. “After leaving, I learned I was not the only student mistreated at this game.”

Darcy Downie, a senior advertising major, attended the game with her boyfriend. They traveled throughout the entire student section in search of seats to no avail. Downie said the walkways were overcrowded with people and stadium staff could not guide her to an area to sit. 

“I was so overwhelmed at this point that I started hyperventilating, and so we had to go find an area that wasn’t crowded for me to calm down,” Downie said. 

Looking back, students believe despite the athletics department efforts, staff overlooked the importance of students’ experiences.

“I can understand [UGA Athletics] trying to make as much money as they could, but not if it’s at the expense of the people that support them,” said Annie Kong, senior computer science major. 

Another issue arose for students with recently made or renewed student I.D. cards. Kong scanned her I.D. at the gate but was told no tickets appeared on her account. The staff member said this issue was typical for students who received a new card within the past four weeks. 

“I went to will call and they gave me a general admission ticket instead,” Kong said. “I wish I would’ve known it would be an issue beforehand.”

Moving forward

Phillips, Downie and Laurel Fox, a senior landscape architecture major, voiced their complaints to the UGA athletics department and received an apology from Brooks. 

In an email Brooks sent to a student, he said student comments will be “used to improve the experience for students in the future.” Downie and Fox received a similar message from Brooks and appreciated the direct communication. Both felt it was a step forward to improve students’ experience in Sanford Stadium. 

To prevent similar issues in the future, Brooks said the department plans to increase security in all student sections to prevent non-students from entering, as well as add more staff to assist students in finding seats in their designated area. Brooks has personally spoken to students and apologized for their negative experience and said the athletic department’s goal is to “provide an exceptional experience.” 

As many of the students love for UGA football remains, so does their disappointment. 

“We’re loyal to our school and our team. We have red and black pride. Why did we have to suffer for it? So many students left in tears,” said Vi Nguyen, a senior biology and neuroscience major.

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(9) comments

plugger782

If tickets are bought and paid for, your seat should be guaranteed ! To be be refused what is paid for, there are laws against such !! Sue em !! Ain't that the American way anymore ? All the apologizing and e-mails and such ... sounds like they are trying to smooth stuff iver before it gets nasty !

bradknit

Sadly enough it all about money! Being a child of a 50+ year season ticket holder parents and currently having a son as a student, the games have been harder and harder to attend for everyone. This is what you get when you want high-level coaching, 5 star commits and a team in contention for a National Championship. Parking (tailgating areas) that have been free for the last 25+ years are now roped off/pay to park area OR are in a lotto/bidding system. This all hits the true fans and illumines that having been coming and contributing $$$ for years. What's the saying; You got to pay to play AND pay to attend live!

Tommylee

Wonder if the many requests to “borrow” an ID on Facebook has anything to do with overcrowding in the student section.

Tommylee

i noticed the student section by band was full 1 1/2 hours before kickoff. Also the end zone group was close to full by then.

Bulldawg18

As an alumnus I think the students should have priority seating at the games. They are the heart and soul of UGA, and they should be treated as such.

Pflanagan69

The police at the stadium which seem to include every agency from GBI on down have definitely become more aggressive at the games this year. Od course I saw 5 of them standing at the top of the first level breezeway standing in one spot laughing and cutting up not doing whatever job they were supposed to. I dont know why the number of police is needed if they are not doing there job, whatever that is. Or do they get a ticket for being the good policeman of the week? To manhandle a student for doing nothing wrong and tossing her out is an overreaction, as usual, on their part.

Tommylee

From what I have seen the GBI guys only get involved when a complaint is made. I have witnessed many law enforcement interact with fans on one issue or the other, never witnessed rude behavior. Most have been matter of fact and stern, which you may call aggressive, but they are there to do a job. 95% of their job is observe, be invisible and handle each situation as they occur

TheProfessor

First of all, students should be given seats first. Any seats left should go to fans. The police officer who grabbed student, and the officer who was rude , should be fired. There is no place for these type of officers in Athens. They should be sued, the University should be sued.

Tommylee

I am not sure how many seats are set aside for students but there are a bunch. Fans pay the way for the whole athletic department with their donations, ticket purchases, and parking purchases. Without the “fans”the athletic endeavor the students want to attend might not happen. I have been approached many times over the years by students wanting to buy any extra tickets to event and telling me, we will not use these seats, we’ll sit in the student section. How they do that I don’t know.

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