Student demand soars for Georgia game tickets
Mac Stephens had been waiting in line at the Colonial Life Arena for two hours Friday morning to get his hands on a ticket to the Sept. 10 football game against the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
The ticket queue stretched out of the building, around the fountain and all the way down the sidewalk until where the road dead ends.
“There were probably a thousand people there,” said Stephens, a fourth-year hospitality management student. “One of the officials said it was the most people they’ve ever seen.”
At 10 a.m., the doors opened.
By 10:30 a.m., Stephens said, a manager was coming down the line telling students that all the Georgia tickets were sold out.
“At least a third of them of them left,” Stephens said.
Stephens’ story was just one of many tales of disappointment by students who couldn’t get into perhaps the biggest game of the most promising Gamecock football season in recent memory.
And those tales of disappointment turned into anger when USC officials told students that only 150 tickets were given out to the game.
But officials familiar with ticket distribution said that number wasn’t abnormally low. In fact, the last time the Gamecocks played in Athens two years ago only 60 tickets were given away to students.
Predicting an anticipated season, USC raised the number of tickets available by 150 percent, said athletics spokesman Steve Fink.
“Obviously, that wasn’t enough,” Fink said. “We were pleasantly surprised today by the demand for tickets and unfortunately did not have enough to meet the demand. Based on what we saw today, if there’s more interest in students traveling to road games, then we will plan accordingly for more tickets for the students in the future.”
Currently, Gamecock fans have 10,000 seats reserved in Sanford Stadium, and 150 go to students. At Mississippi State, 4,000 seats are reserved, and 100 go to students. At Arkansas, 2,500 seats are reserved, and 100 go to students. And at Tennessee, 7,500 seats are reserved, and 100 go to students. Tennessee tickets also sold out Friday.
Money limits how many away game tickets are reserved for students. While the 150 students who received Georgia tickets paid $55 for them, most of the 9,850 other USC fans paid far more.
Giving students a bigger slice of the 10,000-seat pie means less revenue, but increasing the size of the whole pie by increasing the overall number of away games seats has a big drawback.
Jerry Brewer, USC’s associate vice president for student affairs, said the number of away game tickets are controlled by contractual agreements, and if USC wanted more seats at games in Athens it would have to provide UGA an equal amount of seats when the Bulldogs play in Columbia.
“We can bring more Georgia fans here, but I don’t think anyone wants that,” Brewer said. “Home games are a priority. We got 2,000 more seats for home games for students this year.”
Brewer added that the increased disappointment among fans this year could be due to both a larger demand by students in anticipation of a larger season and the fact that away tickets were distributed in the fall this year instead of in April, as is usual. The distribution was moved to fall so that USC could make sure the tickets weren’t being used by students who nabbed them in spring and dropped out of school before football season began.
Brewer said the bottom line about ticket distribution is that it’s market-driven.
“There are some people who pay well more than $50,000 a year for their tickets,” Brewer said.
Stephens said USC should have given USC students more tickets regardless.
“The students have a lot bigger impact than any other fans because we get loud,” Stephens said. “Being a big road game like that, they need all the support and craziness they can get.”
Fink added that not having enough student tickets to meet demand was a good problem to have.