In the SEC, demand for season tickets ranges from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite.
At the bottom, you’ve got something like a 2000s Poison cover band (Vanderbilt); up top, you have 1970s Grateful Dead (Alabama). Ticket costs are all comprised of two basic components — a “book price” for the actual tickets and a per-seat booster club donation requirement — but there are other factors at play for the traditional powerhouses, too. Long waiting lists and the accrual of “priority points” keep some packages in very, very high demand.
Obviously, calling these “donations” is as silly as it gets. But when the SEC offers such a good on-field product to an extremely loyal consumer base, well, schools can do whatever they want.
Let’s dive into the numbers and then pair them with some juicy details.
Why so expensive for a team expected to be average? The Tigers play eight games at Jordan-Hare Stadium this season, including matchups with Clemson, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas. And to some extent, Auburn is probably still riding the coattails of two very recent successful seasons (2010, 2013). Still, the $280 minimum donation (which corresponds to the only tier of season tickets not yet sold out) is quite expensive. You could get season tickets at four other SEC schools with that donation alone! The package doesn’t include a parking pass, either. That only kicks in once a donor reaches the $3,000-per-year Football Scholarship Fund level of giving.
Thoughts: Rent this for a week instead.
According to the university ticket office, the last person on the school’s waiting list who actually received Alabama season tickets signed up in 2008. So there is essentially an eight-year wait for the Crimson Tide holy grail. Once you’re in, the lowest tier of season tickets isn’t much more expensive than other big-name SEC programs. And if you’re looking at it from a cost-per-Alabama-win perspective, you can definitely do worse.
Thoughts: Fair for Alabama, but Nick Saban will be long gone by the time you finally get those tickets.
The Gators’ home schedule is considerably less exciting than Auburn’s, but catching seven games in The Swamp still will cost you. In addition to the $530 price tag for season tickets in the upper bleachers, there’s a minimum $100 donation requirement to become a Gator Boosters member. However, that payment allows fans to purchase up to four season tickets, which is pretty good in terms of accessibility. At last check, UF has plenty of season tickets still available for 2016, and this year comes with the added bonus of not having to endure Treon Harris at quarterback.
Thoughts: The Gators take a little bite out of your wallet, but Steve Spurrier’s golfing habits aren’t free, you know.
The Aggies dropped major money to make Kyle Field big and fancy, and that’s resulted in some sky-high book prices. But the home schedule is pretty dang good (UCLA, Tennessee, Ole Miss, LSU), and the $490 base ticket price is offset by a small donation requirement for the cheapest sections of seats ($25 due now and $25 payable over a five-year period, or $30 per year). If you’re especially rich, you still can purchase seats in the All American Club, where tickets cost a mere $560 along with an annual contribution of $2,500 plus a $3,000 “campaign gift” due over the next five years. Who cares about debt when there’s football to watch?
Thoughts: You could just as easily watch a Texas high school spread team and get the same sort of viewing experience.
The Bulldog Club actually just raised its donation minimums for 2017 amid UGA’s construction of an indoor practice facility and a Sanford Stadium west end zone renovation. A reminder: This is what you pay to keep the right to renew your season tickets. In 2016, the actual base price of season tickets is $270, which is reasonable. Whether you actually get those tickets is another story. Georgia sold out of season tickets in 2015, and the last donor to qualify for two new/additional adjacent season tickets had a priority points total of 6,701. That means, according to 2015 booster fund contribution rankings chart, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of Bulldog Club donors did not receive season tickets. There were over 13,800 donors last year, so … you can do the math there.
Thoughts: Maybe everyone knew Kirby Smart was on the way?
Unsurprisingly, the Rebels sold out their season tickets for 2016, and their ticketing office will be quick to direct you toward the 2017 waiting list form. Price-wise, there’s not a whole lot to complain about; the cheapest season seats in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium only call for a $50 donation on top of $400 tickets. Chad Kelly’s a senior, Alabama is coming back to Oxford and so is the Egg Bowl. What’s not to love? (Well, besides that whole NCAA investigation thing.)
Thoughts: Let the good times roll while they last.
Neyland Stadium is enormous, and Rocky Top on repeat keeps the place plenty loud, but sitting up top can make you feel distant. On the bright side, that allows for some affordable season tickets in the nosebleeds: $420 and no donation requirement. That’s $60 per game for a ranked team that hosts Florida and Alabama this season. Also keep in mind that the average Vols game is going for about $89 on StubHub right now.
Thoughts: Not a bad deal at all, but here’s an even better idea for UT athletics: An exorbitantly-priced “Weekend With Peyton” ticket package, complete with a Buick-driving chauffeur and unlimited Papa John’s pizza.
Rebuilding year? Not in Will Muschamp’s dictionary. (There are lots of words in all-caps, though.) The Gamecocks welcome Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M to Williams-Brice Stadium in 2016. So even though they’re starting several guys with minimal exposure to real, live college football games, you’ve still got to pay a decent sum to see Perry Orth and/or Brandon McIlwain do a lot of pocket-escaping.
Thoughts: It’s possible someone in the athletic department was hoping Spurrier would un-retire and start Stephen Garcia in his 10th year of eligibility.
Like Rocky Top, Death Valley is massive. That means you can perch yourself in the far corners of LSU’s football home and watch a tiny Leonard Fournette carve up defenses for $51 per game. Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all on the docket, and this should be one of the best rosters Les Miles fields in Baton Rouge.
Thoughts: Kudos to LSU for making Tigers football fairly accessible, even in what should be a big season. I’d pitch a “Weekend With Fournette” ticket package, but the squad of angry LSU compliance officers has me rethinking this idea.
Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi State
Missouri ($288), Arkansas ($250) and Mississippi State ($220) all fall into a tier that we’ll call “Hey, that’s a pretty good deal.” None of these teams are projected to be especially good this season, but as with love, they say fandom is blind. Which is good, because watching Missouri play “offense” could actually make you go blind.
Thoughts: The steal here is Arkansas, which welcomes Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Florida to Fayetteville this fall. The $250 option is no longer available, but as of late last week, the Razorbacks still had tickets available in the South Outdoor Club section, which costs $850 per seat plus a $150 donation. That’s a lot of money, but if you’re crazy and love Arkansas football — those two things pair well — there are good games on tap.
These are the bargain buys. Kentucky offers the “pocket pass,” which nets you all seven home games for just $175. Per UK’s web site, the pass “is 100% mobile and allows you the opportunity to watch the game from various viewpoints in the stadium with a different seat each week.” A neat idea that’s affordable, as well, relative to other SEC football offerings. In fact, the Wildcats offer approximately 20,000 football season tickets with no K Fund donation attached. Vanderbilt is even cheaper, with an option that comes out to $20 per game. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida go to Nashville this year, you know.
Thoughts: There is a $635 difference between Vanderbilt’s least expensive option and Auburn’s. You could buy season tickets for nearly three other SEC schools with that money alone. Don’t do that, though. Your kids have to eat too.
Season tickets are a nice luxury, but watching on TV is a better viewing experience that will cost you much, much less. Plenty of fans disagree with me, and that’s fine, but the last thing I want to do is drop big bucks on an embarrassing, rain-soaked blowout.