Posted: 11:11 am Thursday, May 29th, 2014
By Bill King
Athletic Director Greg McGarity talked some more about efforts to upgrade the game day experience at Sanford Stadium this week while attending the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
UGA already had announced that cellphone use inside the stadium should be much enhanced this fall. And, since the conference is loosening up rules on when recorded music and artificial sound can be played during games — letting schools crank up the P.A. between plays until the center is over the football — Georgia is enthusiastically scrambling aboard that bandwagon after experiencing what that sort of game environment is like last year at Clemson. The athletic board approved nearly a million bucks last week for improvements to Sanford’s sound system.
The Athens Banner-Herald quoted McGarity as saying that UGA is “not going to go over the edge like some schools do” but plans on using recorded music more often to build excitment, “maybe on third-down defensive plays.”
He promises, however, that “We are going to do so, I think, in a very tasteful manner.”
If the experiment at trying this during the recent G-Day game is any indication, you can substitute “painful” for “tasteful” in that sentence.
Of course, some older fans aren’t going to like the playing of rock or hip-hop tunes that aren’t familiar to them, but that wasn’t the problem at the spring game. Rather, the decibel level of the pre-recorded music used between plays was so uncomfortable that fans were covering their ears and even plugging them with wadded up napkins.
At least McGarity seems to recognize some adjustments might be in order. “We’ve tasked our staff to create an atmosphere and environment that hopefully pleases everyone,” he told the ABH. “It’s difficult to do but we’re going to try to touch all levels or all decades of music during that effort. We’ve got some training to do, but hopefully we’ll get that started for the Clemson game.”
I don’t mind them playing recorded music if they can turn the volume level down a few notches, but I hope this doesn’t mean we’ll be hearing less from the Redcoat Band during games. The bands are one of the things that set college football apart from its less colorful and charming pro cousin, and I’d hate to see the role of those hard-working student musicians diminished.
Meanwhile, schools elsewhere (including LSU) are looking at other ways to “enhance” the game day experience for fans (read: do something about declining attendance while also boosting revenue) by selling beer at games — something currently prohibited by SEC rules. Even if the conference were to change that, though, don’t look for that to happen any time soon in Athens, if ever.
“It’s not on any agenda. It’s not on any plans moving forward,” McGarity told the Macon Telegraph in Destin, adding that neither he nor UGA President Jere Morehead is in favor of alcohol sales at Sanford Stadium or at the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville.
Which suits me just fine. Those who wish to view football games through a drunken haze already show up at the stadium well lubricated. Let them keep drinking openly inside and it definitely is not going to enhance the game day experience for the sober fans.
Of course, one school of thought on how to make attending college football games more attractive is adding more marquee names to the schedule while getting rid of some of the lesser opponents, particularly the FCS or 1-AA schools that now usually occupy at least one spot on most teams’ home slates. It might help the conference in terms of strength-of-schedule concerns about the upcoming College Football Playoff, too.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said in Destin that he wants the Gators to stop playing FCS schools — and not just because UF was embarrassed last year by Georgia Southern. No, the Telegraph quoted Boom as saying it’s because he thinks the “fan base as much as anything wants to see better opponents.”
Even if Muschamp’s boss, Jeremy Foley, goes along with that idea (which is far from certain), the rest of the conference apparently still plans on scheduling FCS opponents, with UGA’s Mark Richt and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier making the argument that it’s good for college football to give the smaller programs a big pay day.
As the AJC reported, Richt, who is on the board of trustees with the American Football Coaches Association, said he’s for keeping the FCS opponents because “if we … don’t have those games with the FCS schools, a lot of them have a very difficult time making their budgets. I think college football is too important at all levels to hurt them by setting criteria that would not allow you to play them.”
Anyway, he thinks Georgia is in good shape, in terms of strength of schedule, with Georgia Tech on its nonconference schedule every year, plus the school plans to continue to add “some goodies” in the way of major nonconference opponents, with McGarity saying negotiations for a Georgia-Notre Dame home-and-home deal later this decade are progressing.
I’m glad to hear that, and I understand the need for some relative “breathers” on the schedule, considering how rough it is negotiating the conference schedule these days. But there’s no denying that scheduling the likes of Southern and ULM (as Georgia has done for 2015) is going to result in fewer fans in the stands — loud music or even beer, notwithstanding.
What are your thoughts on how to “enhance” game day in Athens?
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About the Author
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.