Georgia Bulldogs fans asked for a big winner in football and they got it…and what goes with it.
A big price tag.
Georgia, which is entering its fourth season with head coach Kirby Smart, will have the highest average ticket price for home games, $487, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of available tickets on StubHub. Second place is Ohio State and it’s not even close: $352.
Michigan is third, $285, Notre Dame fourth at $276, and Alabama is fifth, $249.
This may be the most attractive Georgia home schedule in years. It doesn’t feature Alabama, but one of the reasons UGA ranks first in home ticket price is because of a return game with Notre Dame, which will be a very expensive ticket given the Irish have never played “Between the Hedges” at Sanford Stadium. Notre Dame is coming off a successful season where it made the College Football Playoff. That game is September 21, Week 4.
Georgia beat Notre Dame in a thriller in South Bend, 20-19, in 2017. The game launched UGA, ranked No. 15 at the time, toward an eventual national championship game with Alabama.
There will be more to the UGA-Irish game than the 2017 game. Both teams should be ranked in the top 10 when the 2019 season starts and are expected to be undefeated coming into the game.
More important to the matchup is the scalding let loose by Georgia players when Clemson thumped the Irish in the CFP, 30-3. The Bulldogs were left out of the playoff after a close loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and some UGA players said Notre Dame never should have been included in the playoff.
The other thing to remember with this ticket price is expenses. Georgia’s coaching staff salaries went up 42 percent from 2012 to 2017. The data from the last two years has not been calculated by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, but you can bet it is above 50 percent since 2012.
UGA’s athletic budget is ranked sixth in revenue ($157.8 million) among major colleges with expenditures $119.2 million, according to USA TODAY data.
In 2018, Kirby Smart was the sixth-highest paid coach in the country at $6.6 million a year. His staff ranked sixth, too, at $6.4 million.
But back to the schedule.
The other top game on the UGA home schedule is with Texas A&M, Nov. 23. The Aggies are ascendant under coach Jimbo Fisher, who won a national championship at Florida State.
But don’t forget Kentucky, which is on solid ground now under Mark Stoops and is drawing a legion of its fans to road games. There is also a home game with rival Georgia Tech at the end of the season.
The Bulldogs also have a home game with South Carolina, which will easily sell out its ticket allotment. Will Muschamp, a close friend of Smart’s, said this will be his most talented team.
Georgia is 24-5 over the last two seasons and one play away from a national championship in 2017. It returns a veteran quarterback in Jake Fromm and should have one of the best offensive lines in college football.
If the Bulldogs finally get over the hump in their “do more” season and win a title, those home ticket prices won’t stop rising.