Vols ticket sales are expected to be near 100,000 Saturday
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is anticipating to sell close to 100,000 tickets for Saturday’s noon home game against South Carolina, even as unrest grows among the fan base about the direction of the football program.
An athletic department spokesperson said Thursday that more than 96,000 tickets had been sold. That number is expected to increase as kickoff nears for the fourth home game of the season.
Noon games are traditionally a harder sell to college football fans, especially students.
More than 10,000 student
tickets have been made available for this week’s contest, but the number of student tickets purchased was not available Thursday, because students are expected to continue buying them until close to game time. Their seats are in the southeast corner of Neyland Stadium and cost $10 per ticket.
A look at recent history shows that nearing 10,000 student ticket sales for Saturday’s game would be a coup.
Tennessee hosted Kentucky in a noon SEC game last November with temperatures in the low 50s. There were 101,075 tickets sold, though just 6,792 of them went to Tennessee students. At that time, the Vols were 6-3.
As temperatures dropped and a potential SEC East title slipped away from Tennessee last season, student attendance fell. More than 11,000 were at early-season games against Appalachian State and Florida, but fewer than 7,000 attended each of the final three home games, which were against
Tennessee Tech, Kentucky and Missouri. All were games won by the Vols. The Kentucky game was the only noon game in that stretch.
The number of student tickets made available for home games is swayed by a number of factors, including game times, weather, the opponent and other factors such as breaks in the academic calendar.
Students bought 12,211 of 13,030 available tickets for this season’s first home game against Indiana State, a 4 p.m. start. For the Massachusetts game at noon two weeks later, students purchased 7,100 of 8,904 available tickets. There were 95,324 total tickets sold for that contest, although the stadium thinned out considerably as the game progressed.
Two weeks ago, students purchased their entire allotment of 10,974 tickets for an afternoon home game against undefeated Georgia. A soldout crowd of 102,455 filled Neyland Stadium for what turned out to be a 41-0 loss to the Bulldogs.
That defeat has sparked some dissension among Tennessee supporters, and attendance could become a factor in any decisions the university administration makes this year regarding the future of head coach Butch Jones, who has led Tennessee to three straight bowl victories but has yet to win the SEC East.
Football ticket sales account for 21.7 percent of the athletic department’s $134 million budget, according to an overview of the 2017-18 budget. It’s the department’s second-largest source of income behind SEC/NCAA distributions, a category that includes money from television-rights deals and comprises 29.9 percent of the department’s budget.
Gifts to the Tennessee Fund are the third-largest category, comprising 21.2 percent of the income.
There were many empty seats in the student section of Neyland Stadium by the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s narrow win over Massachusetts on Sept. 23.