I read Bill King’s weekend piece with interest, but nothing in there, from start…
Between a hike in the required donation to buy season tickets and an already planned ticket price increase to $50, Georgia Bulldogs fans face the prospect of paying considerably more for a rather uninspiring 6-game home schedule in 2017.
With the Dawgs’ two most enticing nonconference games coming on the road that season (at Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), the home schedule in Athens will consist of Appalachian State, Samford, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Sounds like a lot of noon kickoffs and no time for serious tailgating, Dawgs fans!
… to middle…
Meanwhile, as if to add insult to injury, at the same time as the announcement of the required Hartman Fund donation increases for Georgia Bulldogs Club members, the stadium improvements announced involve projects aimed at the players and recruits. Again, the fans are ignored.
The athletic association said its next project at Sanford Stadium will be a new home locker room for the players and entertainment space for recruits on the west end of the stadium underneath the Sanford Drive bridge.
Not a word, however, about much-needed improvements directed toward the fans who provide that revenue, such as renovating the squalid restrooms along the dingy concourses on the North side of the stadium, or providing more water fountains so that ticketholders don’t have to miss the better part of a quarter standing in line for bottles at the overwhelmed concession stands run by poorly trained volunteer groups.
… to finish…
Yes, in order to win on the level that Bulldogs fandom is demanding, UGA is going to have to spend big money on player facilities and recruiting, in addition to ever-inflating coaches’ salaries.
But, unless they want to wind up in the business of just providing programming content for ESPN and CBS while the players perform in a less-than-full house, the folks in charge of Bulldogs athletics need to start paying as much attention to the fans as they do to the recruits.
… comes as much of a surprise. After all, as King himself notes,
I have a feeling that’s because, in the wake of the 93K success at G-Day and the overall rise of optimism about the program, they thought they ought to strike now, while everyone’s in love with Kirby Smart. (Hope they’re still in love with him after this season, when it’s time to make those donations.) Chances are, if there had not been a change in coaches, we might not have seen that donation hike in what would have been the 16th year of a recently underachieving Mark Richt era.
Depending on your point of view, you can see this as gouging the most dedicated fans while Bulldog Nation is still in the honeymoon period with the new head coach, or simply keeping pace with what other schools in the SEC are doing. As the athletic department has been at pains to point out, UGA generally still will rank in the middle of the conference in what it asks fans to pay, even after the increases, which are the first hikes for the donations since 2005.
We fans are a means to an end. Once, that end was merely about maintaining a healthy reserve fund. All importing the Process has added to that goal is bringing a ruthless efficiency to maximizing the program’s resources. Kirby is a firm believer in the importance of recruiting in that regard, and that, quite simply, is how decisions about where Butts-Mehre spends its money are going to be evaluated. Fan friendly is a distant second.
I’m not here to say that’s a good thing or a bad thing. After all, it’s pretty easy to argue that winning championships is the most fan friendly thing a football program can offer. But G-Day itself, with its emphasis on filling the stadium to impress recruits, was an obvious indication of the new direction. When you’re a glorified prop, nobody really cares that strongly about how friendly the production was for you.
Which isn’t to say there won’t be some nibbling around the edges, some gestures thrown our way, when it’s convenient (and no doubt they’ll make a bigger deal out of those than they’re worth). And, sure, if an existential threat crops up, they’ll respond.
But benign neglect of the average fan has been B-M’s mantra since the Mesozoic Era. The idea that’s going to change now isn’t realistic. If anything, we’re being asked to change seats and move a little farther back to accommodate the new man’s needs.
I’d end with this some sort of “it had better work” threat, but, hell, let’s face it, this program has survived and prospered plenty without things working. If you’re a Georgia fan, take what you can get and enjoy it.