Students at Notre Dame

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. Some students alleged they were turned away from the student section because there was not enough space for them. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

Sanford Stadium sold tickets for 93,246 fans during UGA’s matchup against Notre Dame on Sept. 21. The highly anticipated game created nationwide buzz as the Bulldogs edged out a 23-17 win.

In a postgame press conference, UGA head coach Kirby Smart said UGA fans were “the twelfth man” and “impacted” the game with their enthusiasm.

But not all UGA students were satisfied with their experience at the historic game. Some are alleging they were removed from the stadium due to a lack of seating in the student sections.

UGA negotiated a deal with Notre Dame in 2014 to schedule two games, one in South Bend and in Athens, with the promise of hosting 8,000 Fighting Irish fans in Sanford Stadium. The agreement meant UGA needed to prepare 500 extra seats than usual in the visitors seating area, so the university planned to “shift” one of the student sections in the West End Zone area to make up for the surplus.

Some students believe UGA athletics oversold tickets and prioritized the experience of higher paying ticket holders and Notre Dame fans over students.

The Red & Black talked to students who were removed or could not find seating in the stadium and how they felt. UGA officials did not respond to requests for comment as of press time. The Red & Black is continuing to report this story.

Caroline Stevens, first-year doctor of pharmacy student from Cumming

After arriving an hour before kick off and not finding seating, Stevens said a police officer then grabbed her by the arm and tried to drag her out of the stadium.

“This was a big game, and kicking out students to make room for certain fans just because they paid more money for their ticket is incredibly unfair. Overall, Sanford really let me down.”

Darcy Downie, senior advertising major from Statesboro

On gameday, Downie said she immediately realized the student section was full. She asked the stadium staff where she could sit and were told to “find a gap.” After an hour of searching for seating, she left.

“This was supposed to be ‘THE game.’ And it is so disheartening to see it plastered all over social media and know that I should’ve been there, and I paid to be there, but what I experienced was so far from what others experienced.”

Jae Choi, senior biological science major from Johns Creek

Choi said she and her friends could not find seating in the designated student section and were directed to sit in a section crowded by Notre Dame fans who yelled at the students to leave. After the stadium staff told the group they couldn’t help, the students decided to leave.

“I’ve paid athletic fees for the past four years, I’ve been paying for events just to get kicked out of the game I really wanted to go to. It discourages me to want to have school spirit and go to the other games, it really does affect my view of UGA as a whole.”

Jessica Phillips, senior human development and family science major from McDonough

Phillips said she could not find seating in the student section and wasn’t allowed in any other section. She asked and was rejected a refund for the game and eventually told to leave by police officers.

“It was a surreal, awful experience that I never want to be a part of again. It just literally was the most awful experience I’ve ever had at UGA.”

Lauren M. Fox, senior landscape architecture from Snellville

Fox said she arrived an hour before kick off and expected to find seating. However, every section she searched was filled. She asked the stadium staff for help who told her, “leave I guess.”

“I would say the worst part of this entire situation in my opinion is that the University did not place any value in the experience of students on Saturday. It seems impossible to me that the university “accidentally” sold tickets in a designated student section, and left hundreds of students with nowhere to go.”