Here’s a very interesting Q&A with Florida AD Scott Stricklin. It delves pretty deeply into his thinking on the future of his school’s home seating.
Stricklin: Under the current setup of the stadium on the seat map, there needs to be a way when the student walks into the stadium, this is where I can go. If they just had general admission seats, they’d be walking into reserve seating sections, because the student section is kind of meandering if you go across the seat map. We need a defined student section like we have in basketball. If you come, ‘this lower section right here, first come, first serve. You can sit right here.’ We don’t really have a way to do that under our current configuration of our seating for football.
To come up with that, you’re looking at either fencing in their current thing which doesn’t really work or you’re having to relocate season ticket holders to locate students somewhere where you can do that. That’s not an easy fix. I think we’ll get there, but it won’t be overnight.
Sun: Do you ever think about putting them in the south end zone and putting season ticket holders in better seats?
Stricklin: We definitely have looked at that. That’s one of the things that has some potential. There’s an expense that goes along with that. For one thing you want to give the people a reward for season ticket holders and give them more room. That’s one of things we want to do is expand seat width for season ticket holders and put chair backs in where we can. We’d rather do that at one time rather than piecemeal.
Sun: At one point you said it might be 10 years before those kind of things take place. Is it still that far away?
Stricklin: I don’t think 10 years. I think we can do it in less time than that.
Hopefully less than five. I think there’s some things we can do within the seating bowl itself in a short time frame.
Sun: And that would reduce seating capacity. Do you have a number on that in mind?
Stricklin: Really don’t. We want to be north of 75,000. Essentially, we have 88,000 seats. Of those, we hold 8,000 for the visitors. The way visiting teams travel now that’s probably 5,000 seats too many so right there you get rid of 5,000 seats and you’d never miss them because visitors aren’t coming.
And I think student seating, we probably have a couple of thousand there. We could get to 80,000 real quick right there and wouldn’t impact anybody coming to the game. You haven’t touched supply and demand at that point. So if you wanted to tighten up supply and demand to make supply and demand more valuable probably between 75 (thousand) and 80. Hopefully we have a great year selling season tickets this year and we reassess that number, but based on where we’ve been the last three or four years that’s probably the number you’re looking at.
Basically, what he’s saying there is that he hopes to lop off around 12-13,000 seats, largely at the expense of student and visitor attendance.
Then, after rejecting the suggestion that the SEC should go to a nine-game conference schedule, he goes on to say this:
But we need to find a way as a league to provide more variety in our SEC schedule. It goes back to what I was talking about earlier — creating more value and interest in what you’re asking your season ticket holders to support.
I’m open for suggestions, but in a two-year period with eight home conference games every two years, seven of those eight are the same. There needs to be more rotation. Some annual games would have to go away, but there are some other great games that will come on the schedule. Auburn-Florida is a good example. We used to play every year.
Our league has so many great brands, you’re going to pick up great games. I think it’s going to be more compelling. You probably get rid of the permanent (opponents). I’m in favor of having the conversation. I don’t know what my colleagues think.
I’m sensitive to the tradition piece, but we have to do what’s best for the whole league and I don’t think we can walk on eggshells around one or two games. You think about players who are here four or five years and never see some teams.
And tops it with this.
Sun: Now that you have been around it for a couple of years, what are your thoughts on Florida-Georgia in Jacksonville?
Stricklin: Jacksonville is really unique and special. It’s something not many schools have. It would be nice to have Georgia on our campus and go to their’s, but we have to weigh that against what Jacksonville means to that series. It’s pretty important now. But you never say never.
Well, you say never as long as they’re paying you for the privilege.
Don’t look now, but this may be your future, SEC fans. Tradition is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills. These guys are in a never-ending search for the last marginal dollar, wherever it takes them.