I’ve chosen to revisit the subject of the season ticket price hike, for a couple of reasons. One, since my initial posts on the matter, I’ve received a number of emails from folks expressing anger with the way the athletic department implemented the increase, and, even more interesting, a number of those emails were from fans who simply copied me with the emails they’d sent Greg McGarity on the topic.
Two, I’m not sure I’ve emphasized sufficiently that my problem lies not with the amount of the raise, or even that the school raised prices at all, as it is the steady stream of misrepresentations Butts-Mehre has made in the process of garnering more funds from the fan base as its excitement over the football program’s progress grew.
The worst of that was, as I’ve posted before, the cynical bait-and-switch tactic used by the athletic department to entice fans motivated to buy SECCG tickets to increase their 2017 contributions. This offer was made despite that most would be misled by its terms, such that the additional contributions would be insufficient to meet a stated target — what was a cutoff in the minds of potential contributors was merely a proposed target by the athletic office — and, to make matters worse, any such contributions paid would be dead money, unable to be applied towards any 2018 targets.
The current version of that misdirection is the sales job McGarity would have us accept that for all these years, we season ticket purchasers have gotten a relative bargain on our loyalties, compared with what other SEC fan bases were paying for the same privilege. Bill King has a typical example here:
UGA athletic officials also were at pains to point out that the football program’s average ticket price of $50 last year ranked 12th out of 14 schools in the SEC. The new average price ($66.42) will put UGA fifth in the league, behind LSU ($70.83), Texas A&M ($70), Auburn ($67.85) and Alabama ($66.57).
They have a valid point about Georgia historically ranking in the bottom third of the conference in ticket prices…
See? You shouldn’t be angry about the price increase. You should feel guilty about how little you’ve paid for years! The best defense is a good offense, and all that.
The only problem is that it’s sheer fiction.
I don’t want you to take my word for that, either. It’s at this point in the post that I’d like to introduce you to StatDawg82. She’s a Dawg boasting two degrees from UGA (BS Statistics – UGA 2005; MS Statistics – UGA 2007) with, as you can see, a background in statistics. Like me, the “you fans don’t realize you’ve never had it so good” shtick didn’t sit particularly well with her. Unlike me, though, she decided to research the matter thoroughly.
What she found moved her to email the athletic director. With her permission, what follows is the text of what she sent him.
As a Double Dawg from the University of Georgia Statistics department, I am upset not only by the sudden huge increase in football ticket prices, but moreover for the gross misrepresentation of information. The numbers presented in the charts about ticket prices for peer schools are misleading.
Over the last three days, since Tuesday’s announcement, I looked at each school’s website, and contacted many of their ticket offices to collect data. The biggest concern with the numbers you presented is that you excluded the per-seat donation. As this is a requirement to obtain tickets, it is only fair to include this in the actual price of the tickets.
This analysis looks at the least expensive way to obtain season tickets, as this is what I personally purchase. The following chart shows the cheapest option to purchase season tickets at each school. I used 2017 data, to stay comparable to your chart. You will notice that Georgia comes in at the very TOP of the list. The very most expensive ticket in the ENTIRE Southeastern Conference. And this is before the price increase you announced on Tuesday. After contacting ticket offices this week, most SEC schools are not increasing their prices next year.
The required minimum donation and increased price will put us at $105.71 per ticket, when the next highest price (including minimum donation) is $82.14 per ticket. The average per-ticket price (of the minimum price available) for all of the other SEC schools is $54.42. Your new pricing has the lowest price available for Georgia tickets at almost double the average!
You will also note that we have the very highest minimum donation in the SEC. Florida is the next highest, and at $150, our minimum requirement is nearly double that amount!
School Minimum ticket price Minimum donation Per ticket price with donation UGA reported per ticket price Georgia $300.00 $275.00 $95.83 $50.00 Auburn $475.00 $100.00 $82.14 $67.86 Florida $380.00 $150.00 $75.71 $54.29 Texas A&M $490.00 $30.00 $74.29 $70.00 Alabama $445.00 $60.00 $72.14 $63.57 South Carolina $415.00 $87.50 $71.79 $52.14 Ole Miss $400.00 $50.00 $64.29 $57.14 Tennessee $420.00 $0.00 $60.00 $60.00 LSU $360.00 $0.00 $60.00 $70.83 Arkansas $250.00 $0.00 $41.67 $60.00 Kentucky $240.00 $0.00 $34.29 $44.29 Mississippi St $200.00 $0.00 $28.57 $53.57 Missouri $150.00 $0.00 $21.43 $54.14 Vanderbilt $148.00 $0.00 $21.14 $42.86
Your second chart that shows ticket prices from Peer Institutions from around the nation is equally misleading. Other than Notre Dame (which has superior facilities and an excellent customer service mindset, as well as wealthier graduates), Georgia is again atop the list in both per-ticket price and also minimum donation.
School Minimum ticket price Minimum donation Per ticket price with donation UGA reported per ticket price Notre Dame $400.00 $750.00 $164.29 $57.14 Georgia $300.00 $275.00 $95.83 $50.00 Oklahoma $455.00 $100.00 $92.50 $65.00 Michigan $430.00 $78.00 $84.67 $71.67 Clemson $385.00 $100.00 $69.29 $55.00 Virginia Tech $350.00 $0.00 $58.33 $58.33 Florida St $295.00 $35.00 $55.00 $42.14 Penn State $385.00 $0.00 $55.00 $60.00 TCU $300.00 $0.00 $50.00 $50.00 Michigan St $343.00 $0.00 $49.00 $49.00 Louisville $210.00 $0.00 $35.00 $59.00 Texas $199.00 $0.00 $33.17 $59.17
I know that it takes money to run a great organization. But it’s not fair to create a system that leaves out loyal fans who are not super-rich. Raising prices is one thing. But your minimum is too high. Raise the prices on the better seats. Raise the donation for the better seats. Raise the prices for new ticket purchasers. But, like Georgia’s peer institutions have all done, leave a way for the “regular people” to get in the door. You’re pushing us out, and I’m disheartened, to say the least. I have been a season ticket holder since I graduated in 2007, and have not missed a home game since I started school at UGA in 2001. I fear the day is coming when I will have to make the financially responsible decision to no longer experience something I so very much enjoy.
Georgia is not in the bottom 3rd of ticket prices, as you claim. You owe it to the Georgia faithful to be honest and transparent with them about the true price of tickets.
To his credit, McGarity responded. I won’t post his reply, since I don’t have his permission to do so. but you should know he didn’t quibble with her base data. As for the rest of his response, I’ll leave it to you to fill in the gaps based on StatDawg82’s follow-up to him.
You were inconsistent in which ticket price you chose to present for each school. You say that you chose the lowest ticket price.
– For Missouri and Kentucky, you did not use the lowest ticket price.
– For LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi State you actually used the highest available ticket price. Not the lowest.
– For South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the values you chose are not listed as an option for 2017 prices.
School UGA Reported Season Ticket Price Actual Minimum Season Ticket Price Missouri $379 $150 Kentucky $310 $240 LSU $425 $360 Arkansas $360 $250 Mississippi St $375 $200 South Carolina $365 $415 Vanderbilt $300 $148
Also, the SEC chart says that Mississippi State and Kentucky had 6 home games when they actually had 7, though the per-ticket price is correct using 7 games.
The peer chart states that Oklahoma and Florida State had 7 home games, when they actually had 6. This makes the per-ticket calculation in the chart incorrect.
It’s embarrassing that you published inaccurate, misleading information while trying to justify your ticket price increase. As you know, most people will just believe what they see in a chart.
While it would be time consuming to conduct a full seat-by-seat analysis across 14 SEC stadiums, it could certainly be done. Since you are not conducting that study at this time, the easiest way that I can compare across the board is to look at the cheapest way to get into each stadium. In 2017, it was not possible to purchase Georgia tickets at $50 each. It is a dishonest representation to pretend that they could be purchased for that amount. You should make a public correction so that your supporters have the real numbers. It is the only honorable thing to do.
It’s hard to say if the misinformation we’ve received is the result of sloppiness, ignorance or a deliberate fudging of the facts. What’s not hard to say is that Butts-Mehre didn’t much care either way about accuracy. Which really translates into not caring about being straight with the bulk of the fan base.
That’s what chaps my derrière here. Had they merely come out with some variation of “we’re doing this because we can” as justification, I’d have grumbled some, but in the end, recognized it’s a sign of the times we live in, stroked the check to ‘da Man and moved on. Instead, we’re fed this “it’s not us, it’s you” garbage. McGarity can’t bring himself to own fully what he’s doing here. (Not that accountability has ever been Butts-Mehre’s strong suit.) This isn’t how an athletic administration should treat a devoted fan base.
I want to share a couple of final notes on this with you. StatDawg82, to her credit, stands by her research, and, as such, is willing to make herself available during the day to answer questions any of you may have about how she compiled her information. Please keep any comments or questions you may have for her on point. To the extent any of you see this as an opportunity to take advantage of her good nature, rest assured I won’t let that go very far.
Second, and back to the fan base for a moment, make sure you take note of an observation Bill King made in that linked post. It may be more depressing that what I’ve already posted here.
As part of making a case for the price hikes, a fact sheet put together by UGA notes that secondary market data shows that demand for Georgia football tickets far exceeds the face value of the ticket. Last season, the average price on StubHub was $113.43 per game.
The athletic association also hinted it could have been worse: “Many schools charge a premium for higher-demand seats above the base season-ticket price, which is not being recommended at this time.”
Yeah, at this time.
They’re just getting started. This is our future. It’s a real shame that they can’t spend half the effort and energy they’re using to find new ways to wring an extra dollar out of us to make the game day experience better for us slobs. But it’s not a surprise.