KNOXVILLE – For the first time in recent history, Tennessee fans will be able to buy football season tickets without making an additional donation to the university.
The Vols have made a limited number of season tickets available for $300 in the upper deck of the south end zone, associate athletics director for communications Jimmy Stanton confirmed to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
"We saw an opportunity to utilize some inventory in the upper deck of the south end zone to create an even more affordable season-ticket option,'' Stanton said. "A $300 season ticket with no donation requirement provides fans the opportunity to see all Tennessee football home games next year at a great price."
Tennessee averaged 89,956 paid tickets per game in 2012 during its seven home games. That’s a noticeable decrease from the average of 94,642 paid tickets per game in 2011. Paid tickets don’t include those who buy a ticket and don’t show up. The Vols had far less people at the Troy and Kentucky games in 2012 than the announced paid attendance indicated.
Tennessee is working against many factors that contribute to declining attendance, which is a problem felt all over the nation in college football.
Certainly a struggling economy is a top contributor. Two tickets, parking and concessions at a UT game can easily cost $150 or more. Bringing a family of four is even more costly.
High-definition televisions and easier access to food and bathrooms are among the other reasons fans have increasingly opted to stay home over the past decade.
At Tennessee specifically, three straight losing seasons have hurt fan interest. The Vols have won only four SEC games in Neyland Stadium during that span.
The hiring of new head coach Butch Jones, despite some mixed reviews from fans, could help fill the 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium in 2013. Despite the 2010 season being a major rebuilding year for the Vols, they still averaged just shy of 100,000 paid tickets per game in former coach Derek Dooley’s first year in Knoxville.
"I'm going to go ahead and put a plug in for you to go ahead and get your season tickets," Jones said at his introductory press conference last Friday.
Jones already has impressive pulpit from which to sell his program, and, presumably, tickets. Before his hiring was announced last Friday, the former Cincinnati head coach had around 11,000 followers on Twitter. As of this writing, he has nearly 51,000. That's already fourth among all FBS coaches, behind only Les Miles (LSU), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and Mark Richt (Georgia).