Weekend Road Games: The Art of Packing Another School’s Arena

Traveling for weekend road games is not just for Football, it can be done for Hoops too.

Georgia has four weekend road games from now through the end of the season.  Each game would be considered winnable, but it would not hurt to counter-balance the home crowds.  It’s not easy to do, but there’s precedent and it makes the season even more enjoyable.  It also helps promote the program, which creates a buzz even after Jim Nantz makes his transition from his College Basketball voice to The Masters voice.

Road Games are Fun to Attend

Road wins are still fun in 2018, right?  That’s not something that was left behind in 2017?

When it is Football Season, the next time Georgia visits each of these SEC foes will be in the following years:

  • Alabama:  2020
  • Arkansas:  ????
  • Auburn:  2019
  • Florida:  Right now, looks like never.
  • Kentucky:  2018
  • LSU:  2018
  • Mississippi State:  2022
  • Ole Miss:  ????
  • Tennessee:  2019
  • Texas A&M:  2024
  • Vanderbilt:  2019

Missed out on The Grove and The Square?  Disappointed that you ended up going to Little Rock as opposed to Fayetteville?  Consider Basketball Season as an opportunity to experience what you missed out on and pull for a UGA win in a climate-controlled environment with a possible Halftime Show by Red Panda.

Flights and commutes are less of an issue with Basketball Season, except when it comes to weather.  January Ice Storms can play havoc and the fact that hotels are typically refundable due to non-event rates means that there is no risk to cancelling before the specified cutoff date.  Always check the cutoff date.

Tickets are also much cheaper for Men’s Basketball games.  The lessened demand means opportunity to fill up the arenas with Red and Black.  If you can pull off Silver, go for it.  Maybe not at Tennessee when they do their gimmicky Smokey Jersey day.

Packing the Opponent’s Arena

There’s a level of playing defense on the part of those in group ticket sales and marketing.  Opponents known to pack arenas (typically programs that are successful and have excited bases) are sometimes blocked out by block sales for various constituency groups in the local areas.  Sometimes, it is a Halftime Performance by kids and tickets being sold to the families in attendance.  Sometimes, it is an incentive program for local schools or community groups.  There is a bit of creativity to this.  The seats are sold, but it is done in a fashion that does not turn a Home Game into a Neutral Site or Road Game.

The Blue Blood Method

Have a historically great program like Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina or Louisville.  There’s no need to put in any extra effort here as a program or as a base as it is already assumed that wherever the team is, the supporters will follow.

The Large Alumni Base Method

Programs in major cities often have rival alumni and fans invade their places because they have large alumni bases in the cities.  For example, North Carolina has a large enough alumni base in Atlanta to fill up a considerable portion of McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech.  They can even get loud enough to compete with the pep band.

Strong local Alumni Association and Athletic Association relationships can forge opportunities for encouraging road game attendance.

The We’re On the Way to the Bowl Game Method

This opportunity has already passed, but it makes for a good incentive for Big Ten schools to schedule ACC and SEC opponents during the Christmas Break.  What this requires is a few things:

  1. Smart scheduling of the game to come a few days before the Bowl Game.
  2. Promotion of the game in more favorable markets.
  3. A program that has a passionate base and a glimmer of optimism for the upcoming season.

Supporters would make it a part of their plans much like the way the Georgia Faithful make Border Bash in Augusta or going to St. Simons before the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party part of their plans.

The Bruce Pearl Method

Remember when Tennessee used to pack opposing arenas during the mid-2000s and their supporters would come in orange clad with creamsicle shakers as if it was organized that way?  They would occupy blocks of seating in an arena to amplify the noise that they would make.  When Tennessee got down, the “Go Big Orange” chants came out and when Tennessee was up, all of a sudden they started singing that one part of Rocky Top that they remembered and for the sake of everyone in attendance it is not the part that involves a mysterious disappearance of strangers.  #BringBackOurFederalAgents

How did they get there?  Simple.  Bruce Pearl helped arrange for supporters to be bused from Knoxville!  It was an organized effort to capitalize on the resurgence of Tennessee Basketball.  It was a bit of a leap of faith to place this much hope in a First Year Basketball Coach, but the results justified the busloads.

The Hot Ticket Method

If there’s Basketball Fever in a college town, road games are a popular road trip option for students and alumni.  The bandwagon effect can come in one of two ways that happen simultaneously:

  • It gets people who were not previously engaged to be engaged.  (Stage 1)
  • It gains further share of resources (time and money) from existing supporters.  (Stage 2)

Knowledge that a particular game is a big event with some sort of notice means that there are opportunities to organize social events around the game.  It can become a mini-version of a College Football Gameday, which is a function of the arena capacities and demand.

It provides a convenient excuse to see friends who attended the opposing school or for Greek organizations to visit another chapter.

Which way can the Georgia base infiltrate?

The best paths are the utilization of the large alumni bases and the Bruce Pearl Method.

Mark Fox’s attempts to piggyback on Georgia Football’s success and support may afford the ability for the favor to be returned.  Consider that Fox has implored people to occupy seats at the SEC Championship Game, Rose Bowl and National Championship Game.  Fox has had allergic reactions to body paint (may have to find paint made from different materials if he’s going to do that again) and even delayed Fall Practice for a Football Game.  Fox has sacrificed and spent his time selling what stirs the drink in Athens (figuratively).  He put in the time with the mega-boosters and won them over.  When does it become more than just a sideshow and can UGA alumnus Kirby Smart help change that from a messaging perspective?  This is the most likely way Mark Fox can even think to employ the Bruce Pearl Method and even then it is still difficult.  Nick Saban cannot even get students to stay four quarters at a Football Game, can Kirby Smart really be that influential if he chooses to get involved?

Consider thus far UGA and Mark Fox has needed to do the following to get people to come to Stegeman Coliseum:  Give away possibly unsold Kentavious Caldwell-Pope jerseys (while he is still serving prison time, they could have delayed this promotion), give away T-shirts of all kinds, give away Rose Bowl Tickets, make donations to local charities, Red Panda at Halftime and trot out the Georgia Football Team with the SEC Championship Trophy.  Throw in the fact that student tickets are free and there’s an opportunity to win lukewarm chain pizza while watching a rather talented Men’s Basketball Team, it is still a very up-hill battle.

Unfortunately, there are no opportunities to take advantage of large alumni bases for road weekend games, but there is one opportunity for a road weekday game in Nashville against Vanderbilt.  However, weekdays are difficult because people have busy lives:  Families, work obligations, gym memberships, trading Ripple and cheating on their spouses to name a few of the popular pastimes.   Yes, that’s right, early Wednesday evening (5-7 PM) is the most popular day of the week and time to cheat on a spouse.  The game on February 7 starts at 7:30 PM Central Time.

The weekend road games are not taking place in the most popular or enticing of College Towns.

  1. January 20 – Auburn:  Bring red toilet paper or streamer paper.  This will be a tough ticket to get on the secondary market, unless you buy now, opt to go alone and choose to sit in the extreme nosebleed seats of Auburn Arena.
  2. January 27 – Manhattan, Kansas:  Has appeal to Kansas City alumni, but it is tough to get a huge stream of people to infiltrate the Octagon of Doom.
  3. February 3 – Starkville:  Getting to Starkville is a bit of a pain and it’s a 4 1/2 hour trip from Atlanta.  It’s a 6 PM Eastern Time tip-off from Humphrey Coliseum.  It is a classic setup for a well-organized invasion due to seating available.
  4. March 3 – Knoxville:  Seats at Thompson-Boling Arena are more abundant than most venues in the SEC.  It’s not a terribly difficult trip from Atlanta and from Athens, it is only a 4 hour trip.  This is a game that could hold a lot of weight for Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes.  There are seats available for this game as well and there’s nothing like wrecking an opponent’s Senior Night.

The games in Starkville and Knoxville are prime opportunities for the bandwagon effect to come into play.  The game prior to the Mississippi State game is the Florida game in Athens.  Few things get the base excited like winning against Florida.

However, there must be some form of encouragement to get the road crowd to show up to Starkville and Knoxville.  Make it a challenge of some sort and if it fails, it fails.  If the season is strong, there’s cognitive dissonance about missing out in the case of failure.  So many students and alumni made the trek out to Auburn for a Football Game, getting 500-1,000 UGA supporters into Humphrey Coliseum and Thompson-Boling Arena on a Saturday should be considered doable during a winning season.  Shouldn’t it?

It’s worse to be afraid of failing than to fail while exhausting all options.

One comment

  1. Like many, I’ve got a collection of friends that I tailgate with for fb games and grp text back and forth about fb. getting or keeping the interest for bb has never been easy. hope that the other circles have a greater likelihood of interest…..cause unfortunately mine doesn’t….so as good as above sounds, I question the ability to step out of the stereotype of just being a fan base only interested in fb and making above a reality.

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