Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Sammy Bowden writes: I couldn’t believe Greg McGarity was talking this week about an increase in ticket price before the 2015 season, considering the Dawgs will play a home schedule that will feature the likes of Southern, ULM and Georgia Southern! OK, so Alabama will be playing in Athens that season, but I still question whether raising ticket prices is a good idea when everyone in college football, even in the SEC, seems to be worried about stemming a decline in attendance and enhancing the game day experience to lure folks away from their big-screen TVs and a fridge full of beer at home. I saw where McGarity justified it by saying they didn’t know how much income the new SEC Network would produce, but you’ve got to figure that with ESPN running the show, that network is going to produce a pretty nice chunk of change for all the conference schools. Is it really wise to tack a ticket price increase on top of that at a school that already has a $69 million surplus? Really!!?? What’s your take on this, Bill?
I think there’s never a good time for a price increase in anything, really. Of course, as McGarity has noted, the athletic department has “limited ways to generate revenue. Unless we have increases in SEC money — and nobody knows what the new TV network is going to generate — football is the only real revenue source that we have.” Plus, the price of football tickets for games in Athens hasn’t increased since 2008. Georgia’s ticket prices — $40 to $45 — also rank in the bottom third of what SEC programs charge. And Dawgs 247 reported McGarity brought up another point in talking with reporters: Schools like Ohio State that charge more for tickets than UGA make a much greater profit per game, which could be a factor in any future “bidding war” for nonconference opponents.
On the other hand, you make some good points, Sammy. Particularly about the SEC Network. It may not be known at this point how much SEC schools will rake in from that venture, but if the examples of other conference networks is any indication, it’ll be quite a bit. Also, UGA may still be selling out its entire allotment of 55,000 season tickets, and donations to the Hartman Fund to get the right to buy those tickets actually exceeded projections this year, but the continued scheduling of cupcake nonconference games could erode that fan dedication. I’ve heard more than one longtime UGA season ticket holder talk about dropping out of the program in favor of buying tickets to the individual games they really want to see via StubHub and skipping the others. They figure that, even paying a premium for the good games in the secondary market, they’ll still end up shelling out less than they do for season tickets when you factor in the Hartman Fund contribution. It’s a problem a lot of major college programs are still trying to figure out how to handle.
Rosie in Rome writes: Bill, I know the AJC “found it a little alarming” that Todd Gurley was skateboarding and “hanging off balconies” while visiting in Hollywood, but I fail to see what the problem is here. He may be a star football player and a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he’s still a college kid, and compared with what lots of other college kids get up to, skateboarding seems pretty mild. And the photo I saw had him sitting on the railing of a balcony, not hanging off it. Can you say exaggeration? How about we let these young athletes have some semblance of normal life instead of stalking them online even when school is out and they’re away from Athens?
You’re right about college football players still being students and kids, Rosie, but I’m afraid there’s no way to undo today’s social media age, which allows reporters and other observers to follow what athletes are up to in their time off. And when it comes to a high-profile player like Gurley, who’s had to overcome some injury problems, I can understand why the thought of him skateboarding might raise a few eyebrows. I remember the ruckus that was raised in the winter of 2011 when Aaron Murray sprained an ankle playing in a pickup soccer game on campus. Murray, a player known for his hard work and dedication, swore off messing around with other sports after that. “No more soccer. No basketball, soccer, baseball, softball — none of that stuff. Just football from here on out,” the UGA quarterback said. But that was his own choice. Mark Richt has never put restrictions on playing other sports or participating in various activities because, he said after the Murray incident, “I want these guys to live their lives and enjoy it. It seems like no matter what you do, somebody can still stumble down the stairs and get hurt.”
As the AJC’s Chip Towers, who first reported on Gurley’s vacation pix posted to Instagram said, “I think about things I did as a 19-year-old (Gurley doesn’t turn 20 until Aug. 3), like jumping off cliffs into the Chattahoochee River and playing pick-up tackle football games on hard-pan fields, and I just shrug at what Gurley does with his free time. Then again, I wasn’t preparing to try to win a championship for my school or sign a multi-million-dollar professional contract.” So, basically, it’s up to Gurley. I don’t think you want him to constantly be worried about hurting himself and the long-range implications. When that happens, you tend to get players who don’t go all-out in their final college year because they’re worried about their NFL prospects. I’d rather have Gurley living life free of such concerns, even if that means shooting around on a skateboard.
Bob in Richmond writes: Hey Bill, Georgia’s new uniforms of last season had one distinct difference from all others, going back to the Wally Butts era. The jersey numerals are now “rounded,” where in past years and decades, they always had a “squared” or “framed” design. In other words, the numerals now look very curved, rather than the squared look of all here-to-fore Dawg jerseys. While, to some, the difference may seem to be insignificant, it clearly distorts the traditional “Georgia Look.” I have no other complaints about the new unis. To change the numerals design would make them perfect. Is this a difference you had also noticed? Have you heard of any other such complaints about the numerals? Should we hold out any hope of getting the numerals restored to their original “look”.
Yeah, Bob, a lot of fans noticed the different look and most weren’t that thrilled with it, but I think it’s a relatively minor point. The more rounded numbers were part of a switch to a different font, dubbed Bulldog Bold, that Nike created for all UGA athletic teams as part of an overall branding effort. Considering the sort of Oregon-inspired changes Nike would have liked to introduce, but which UGA rejected, I think we should be happy rounded numbers was the worst of it.
IndianaDawg writes: Bill, have you heard any more about the possibility of Georgia and Notre Dame signing a home-and-home football deal? I know those of us UGA grads stuck up here in Irish-land would love to see it happen!
No official word, Indy, although as you probably saw CBS Sports reported a few weeks back that Notre Dame and Georgia were in discussions about such a deal, possibly for 2018-2019. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who first mentioned Georgia as a natural matchup for the Fighting Irish last year, touched on the idea again recently in a Fox Sports podcast, saying that he and athletic director Jack Swarbrick “want to get an SEC team on our schedule,” and indicated that Georgia “would be the best draw for us as it relates to recruiting and an alumni base.” UGA’s Greg McGarity has said previously, “I think it’d be great for the University of Georgia if we were able to make it happen,” so I have a feeling this is something that will become a reality eventually.
Switching sports for a moment, a tip of the Bulldog cap to Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack’s program, whose alums are having a terrific run on the PGA Tour, with five former Dogs having won this season (Bubba Watson, Brendon Todd, Russell Henley, Harris English and Chris Kirk). My friend Dan passed along a great comment from Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated, who noted that, as Southern Cal is to running backs and Penn State is to linebackers, so is UGA to PGA tour champions. Go Dogs!
Finally, I hope you all enjoy a safe, fun Memorial Day weekend, but amid the barbecues and family outings, take just a moment to remember what the holiday is all about: honoring the men and women who died in the service of our country. Without them, we wouldn’t be safe to enjoy those Big Green Eggs!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg