More ‘opt-outs’ than expected for Georgia football tickets

It appears the “opt-out” rate for Georgia football season tickets is going to be higher than expected.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 50 percent of the Bulldogs’ donors were opting to pass on some or all of the tickets for which they qualify, according to season-ticket holders who have interacted with Georgia’s ticket office in the past two days. Donors had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to inform UGA Athletics they were either going to opt in for tickets to Georgia’s four home games or opt-out and accept a refund or donate the balance to an incentivized COVID-19 fund.

UGA officials said they won’t be able to provide an exact number of tickets sold until all the orders are processed over the next few days.

Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said he hasn’t been tracking ticket orders, but he’s not surprised that a significant number is choosing to not attend the games.

“I haven’t seen the data, but we expected there would be a certain population of people that would just prefer to watch from home,” McGarity said Wednesday afternoon. “Then again, that also allows us to go deeper in the pool. So, we might be able to help out more donors. Once we get all the data in, we’ll just see where the measurements stop.”

Georgia is playing only four home games in the 2020 season, which has been shortened and converted to an SEC-only format because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Social-distancing requirements will limit capacity of 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium to about 23,000 spectators. That number will have to include students, faculty and staff, parents of players and visiting-team tickets.

Georgia has a fifth home game to consider as well. But that one is being played against Florida in Jacksonville, as always, and ticket requests for it are being processed separately. The Gators and Bulldogs expect to receive about 9,000 tickets each for that contest.

There are several reasons beyond health and safety for all the opt-outs. First, Georgia’s schedule is front-loaded with attractive games against Auburn and Tennessee in October. Fewer fans are showing interest in attending the final two games against Mississippi State on Nov. 21 and Vanderbilt on Dec. 5. Also, the Bulldogs are offering triple priority points (normally one per $1 contributed) to season-ticket holders who contribute their balance to UGA’s COVID-19 fund.

One season-ticket holder told the AJC that while he qualified for the maximum of four tickets to all four home games, he chose to attend only the Auburn and Tennessee games. Meanwhile, he donated the balance from his original order – about $4,800 – to the UGA’s COVID-19 fund. Accounting for about 15,000 points in the Bulldogs’ priority-ticket system, that will move him up several hundred spots in the pecking order for seats next year.

While the extra points provide tremendous incentive for relatively-new or lower-end donors who might be interesting in qualifying for more tickets or a better seat location, it’s not particularly enticing for long-time, major givers. They don’t need any more priority points because they already get all the well-located tickets they want. Meanwhile, they also tend to belong to people in an older demographic considered more at-risk to acquire COVID-19 disease from the coronavirus.

One Silver Circle member (at least $1 million in cumulative donations) said he opted in for all his tickets but hasn’t decided whether he will attend.

“I did buy my tickets,” he said. “But I might just enjoy being careful and staying at home. I know there’s plenty of people in my family who will want to go.”

Also, UGA has not announced whether tailgating will be allowed.

Georgia is not overly concerned with high opt-out numbers. With a season-ticket base of nearly 60,000, the Bulldogs figure there will be plenty of fans who still want to attend.

McGarity was not complaining.

“The Georgia people have been absolutely outstanding with their patience and understanding during these very unique times,” he said.