When the natty trumps conference

Seth Emerson shares a sad story ($$).

Texas A&M defensive tackle​ Kingsley Keke​ is​ a senior, so he​ can​ start​ to​ look​ back wistfully on​ his college​​ career. He was asked Monday, as he attended SEC Media Days, if there was any school he wished he could have seen.

“I wish I could’ve visited Georgia,” he said. “I think that would be pretty cool. Just to look around.”

Sorry about that, Kingsley.  You’d have liked it.

Not that Greg Sankey cares.  He’s got his eyes on the real prize.

The Southeastern Conference is adamant that its current eight-game conference format is in the best interest of the conference, commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday at the opening day of SEC Media Days.

The SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference remain the only Power 5 conferences that have yet to expand to a nine-game conference format, but Sankey said after heavy review by the conference that the schedule will remain the same for the foreseeable future.

“Has the SEC approach worked?” Sankey asked. “Our success as a league should not be attributed simply to our scheduling philosophy, but year after year our best teams have produced the best team in the country. The facts candidly speak for themselves.

“Stated succinctly, what we do works on a championship level and to the level that provides our teams meaningful access to postseason bowl opportunities.”

The SEC has a scheduling philosophy?  Who knew?  I thought its scheduling was nothing more than the haphazard result of jamming the round peg of conference expansion into the square hole of an eight-game conference schedule originally designed for a 12-team SEC.  Go figure.

Despite some lobbying for an expanded conference schedule, Sankey said you can’t argue with the conference’s success.

The SEC has played in 11 of the last 12 national championship games, winning nine, and twice there’s been an all-SEC matchup, including Georgia and Alabama last year. Five SEC schools — Alabama, Auburn, Florida Georgia and LSU — have played for a national title in that time span.

“By comparison, no other conference has had more than two institutions that has accessed those national championship games during that time,” Sankey said. “Twice in the past seven years we’ve had an all-SEC matchup in the national championship game. There’s no other conference that has done that on any other occasion.”

Sankey said the conference and its member institutions’ athletic directors continue to evaluate its eight-game conference philosophy.

“I do not presently anticipate any major change in our approach, but I do anticipate healthy and continued dialogue both now and in the future among our leadership,” Sankey said. “We have a history of being thoughtful and strategic as we decide major policy issues, and I assure you that our approach will continue.”

Translation:  as long as the money grab is working, don’t expect us to make any changes.

That’s nice for the people cutting the checks, but as far as the fans go, not so much.  Especially as long as we’re buying those season ticket packages like there’s no tomorrow.

Groo ponders the possibility that we may be seeing a couple of canaries in the coal mine, though.

… One area in which there seems to be a little softening is in the time-honored tradition of the visitor’s section. Of course with rabid SEC fans there will always be plenty of loyal opposition in the stands, and the one or two best games on the schedule will always be a tough ticket, but the phrase “tickets returned from visiting teams” seems to be showing up a lot more often.

Variable ticket pricing isn’t a new development – it’s been around in some form in the SEC for most of this decade. Teams have figured out the mechanics of charging more for premium (or just conference) games. Neither is supply-and-demand a revelation. When the prices of tickets rise, we’ll see less demand for them. For home fans, it’s somewhat more difficult to turn away. There are other things at stake beyond the ticket price – maintaining a location held for generations and the ritual of tailgating and a fall weekend in Athens make it tempting to swallow each subsequent price increase.

With the introduction of variable pricing for its home games in 2018, Georgia’s had enough tickets returned this year from opponents to offer a five-game pack to the general public for all home games except Tennessee and Auburn. Georgia’s not having a problem selling season tickets to its own fans (new season tickets require nearly 24,000 points), but many are simply holding their spot for the Notre Dame game in 2019. Visiting fans don’t care about our future schedule, and it will be telling to see if these packages will be met with as much interest by Georgia fans since they’re 1) not sold at a discount and 2) aren’t renewable.

Yeah, I do wonder what goes down in that regard next season, given the financial realities and the unique draw of a home game against Notre Dame.

Canary number two?

A related casualty of variable pricing is the visiting band. With equipment and larger instruments, a 350-person band can use well over 500 seats. Since most of the higher-prices games are likely to be conference matchups, the cost to bring a full band has skyrocketed. You’ll see fewer full bands and more 40-100 person pep bands in the visitor’s section across the conference. There will be exceptions for high-profile games (think Notre Dame or Georgia-Florida), but each exception will require a difficult decision by an athletic department to write the check.

Kind of gives a different meaning to “if it ain’t broke”, doesn’t it?

The money chase is relentless, so I don’t expect things to divert from their current course.  The question remains, of course, whether the SEC is nimble enough to manage a transition successfully if circumstances force the schools to do so.

You can stop chuckling now.  In the meantime, when’s that trip to College Station coming up?


Filed under SEC Football

19 responses to “When the natty trumps conference

  1. Athens Dog

    outside of LSU (New Orleans) A&M is the only road game that I’m still ready to attend (I consider Nashville every other year a short drive to a home game) Too bad we have to wait so long……………


  2. Mayor

    Senator, I may be the only regular on this blog who supports an 8 game conference schedule but I do particularly in light of the WLOCP which is always played away from Sanford Stadium. I know that some will view a move to 9 conference games as an opportunity to have a 4-4-1 conference schedule and I can appreciate where they are coming from. But tell me with a straight face that the SEC office that asked UGA to play at Auburn 2 years in a row won’t some years expect Georgia to play a schedule with only 3 home conference games, 5 true road conference games plus the game in JAX.


  3. Derek

    My guess is that A&M comes to Athens next fall. We won’t get to College Station for awhile.

    We’ll be due for a trip to Tuscaloosa in 2020, I think.


  4. CPark58

    1) Make the conference championship a prerequisite for the CFB Playoff. The regionalized nature of college football is what makes it great. If you win your conference that’s something to be proud of by itself, a shot to win the Natty is a bonus that should be earned. The fact that Alabama has won the national championships in two years when it wasn’t the best team in the western division should be an embarrassment to college football.

    2) Go to this schedule model https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sbnation.com/platform/amp/college-football/2016/6/14/11895556/sec-football-schedule-format-divisions-rivalries-rotation

    3) Never forget Tyler Simmons was onsides.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same concept, but I actually think The Roommate Switch is buttoned up even better. Plus, it dives into the 9 game option. I really think sometimes the mark is missed over 9 vs. 8 games, GA-FL location, Tech , etc……..the damn problem is that we play Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt (and Tennessee for that matter) 12ishxs more than we play everybody from the West not named Auburn.



  5. Dawg1

    Miami scheduled and will play 2 against TAMU before UGA ever gets to play at TAMU after they were added to the conference.

    Just plain WEIRD.


  6. DoubleDawg1318

    The SEC is strategic and thoughtful in its decision making? Who knew?


  7. Go Dawgs!

    Hey, Kingsley, have you graduated yet? You’re welcome to transfer to Athens… it’s much better to immerse yourself in the full experience. You can’t really see it all over one weekend.


  8. paul

    Professional sports are mostly seeing a decline in attendance, though that decline is more than offset by an increase in revenue thanks to television. Many colleges are seeing the same. I suspect that schools that continue to compete at a championship level will continue to be okay. At least for a while. But our son, who graduated from Georgia twice and his wife, who graduated from Georgia twice, look at it from a strictly dollars and cents perspective. They can pay a premium on the secondary market for the few tickets they actually want, attend the games that matter, sit in good seats and still spend far less money than they would making Hartman contributions. On the weeks they do not attend they rent out their tailgate spot to someone else. Unless and until schools start to actually focus on the game day experience I suspect it will get harder and harder to put butts in the seats. However, if all you’re looking at is the money, what the average fan actually encounters is not your concern. Like at Georgia.


    • Would a list of names of season ticket holders be subject to a FOIA request. I’d be interested to see (not necessarily at UGA), if Secondary Market individuals or entities show up….. if your theory holds true, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a future where large swaths of season tickets are merely offloaded from Universities straight to secondary market companies, with the University themselves posting tickets to the secondary market under the “dynamic pricing” theory.


      • paul

        I think that’s already happening on at least a small scale. But yes, I believe it will become more common.As far as FOIA, I’m not positive how the organization is set up but I don’t think they are subject to FOIA requests.


  9. watcher16

    As far as the band thing goes, I think there is already a rule that SEC schools can only send their full band to 2 away games a year (or something similar–somebody can correct me if I’m wrong). Something about having parity for some of the have-nots (looking at you Vandy…) in the conference.


  10. PTC DAWG

    I see Seth found a dead horse.