Other SEC schools offer students greater share of away seats
While USC students were allotted 150 tickets to the Georgia away game this weekend, University of Georgia students received 1,000 tickets last season when the Bulldogs played in Columbia.
Both universities are contractually entitled to 10,000 tickets in each other’s stadium. UGA students are reserved 10 percent of tickets when their team plays in other stadiums, according to Tim Cearley, director of ticket operations for UGA athletics. In contrast, USC students received 1.5 percent of tickets to the Georgia game this season.
Last week, USC athletics spokesman Steve Fink said athletics would plan to meet student demand in the future.
All 150 student tickets for the Georgia game sold out within 30 minutes last Friday, the first day they went on sale. All 100 student tickets for the Tennessee game and all 500 student tickets for East Carolina University game also sold out that day, and droves of students who had shown up at the Colonial Life Arena were turned away.
Last season, Tennessee reserved its students 219 tickets when the Vols came to Columbia, more than double the amount USC students received for the Tennessee road game this semester.
As of last week, USC sold out all 10,000 of its Georgia tickets and all the tickets it accepted for Tennessee and ECU. Once student tickets run out, students can still purchase normal away game tickets, but USC fans who pay for expensive season tickets to home games are allowed to purchase them first.
USC was criticized for moving the away game ticket sale from April to September partly because it gave first-semester freshmen an equal shot at receiving tickets. Both USC and UGA students must pay for road game tickets, but at UGA credit hours determine who gets first pick. Fink said the ticket sale was moved to make sure students who dropped out of USC before fall semester began couldn’t use the tickets.
While USC accepted all the tickets it could have taken for the highly anticipated and relatively close Georgia game, it did not for the ECU and Tennessee games, meaning that more tickets could have been set aside for students at those games without sacrificing seats for other fans. USC only accepted 27,500 tickets out of the 40,000 ECU tickets it could have taken, and only 5,500 out of 7,500 Tennessee tickets it could have taken.
“We didn’t take that amount because demand for the tickets was not there,” Lance Grantham, USC’s director of ticket operations, wrote in an email response. “Sales for both slowed to a crawl before we released the tickets back to Charlotte and UT to sell, independent of what was held for students.”
Schools pay face value for seats at opposing stadiums and sell them at face value to their fans. Regardless of who sells them, all the money goes to the school that is hosting the game. If schools overestimate the zealousness of their fans by trying to sell too many road game tickets, they could end up paying the cost of unsold tickets.
Joe Arnone, Tennessee’s associate athletic director for ticket operations, said he was surprised that USC didn’t take more tickets.
“South Carolina only took less than 6,000 tickets to our game up here,” Arnone said last week. “We still have 10,000 tickets left for the South Carolina game here, so if students want to go online or call our office they can.”
Arnone said he understood the danger of overcommitting to selling away game tickets.
“Four years ago we played at [USC], and we held like 1,000 tickets or some ridiculous amount for our students, and they didn’t have their pickup until a week or two weeks out and the South Carolina ticket office took all 1,000 of those tickets back from us,” Arnone said. “Otherwise, we would have been screwed.”
In case of a repeat of that situation, Arnone recommended to Tennessee officials that away game tickets should be sold as early as possible in order to have time to negotiate sending tickets back.
Student Ticketing Coordinator Adrienne White said most students she sold tickets to last Friday came for ECU tickets. Though only 500 ECU student tickets were on sale, an email sent out to students to remind them of the ticket sale contained a line, inserted by the Gamecock Athletics Marketing Department, that read “The first 1,000 students to purchase a ticket to the ECU game will receive a free T-shirt!”
Eric Nichols, USC Athletics’ director of marketing, wrote in an email response that the line was not a mistake, adding that students who purchased ECU tickets off of TicketMaster could come to the Colonial Life Arena on Sep. 1 to pick up their free T-shirts.
Some students also complained of line cutters at the ticket sale.
“In the future, if the ticket office decides to do the away game sale in the fall, yes, security will be brought in for that reason,” White said.