Vols ticket sales are ex­pected to be near 100,000 Satur­day

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY DAVID COBB STAFF WRITER

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN RUDD

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.

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