It’s Friday, and there is absolutely no college football tomorrow. That’s a problem. And we’re going to try to solve the problem by getting through it together. This is Free Form Friday, the unstructured gateway drug to the weekend. Sometimes we’ll discuss subjects related to UGA athletics. Other times, well, who really knows. Either way it should be a gas. Enjoy.
Always. Read. The. Footnotes. It’s great advice when you’re studying for graduate school exams. It’s apparently also a great idea when you’re trying to keep tabs on the financial situation of the University of Georgia Athletic Association. As the AJC’s Seth Emerson noted in a recent story, the AA apparently now has $77 million in uncommitted reserve funds, including a healthy $32 million invested with the University’s foundation which one could find referenced only in a footnote in the Athletic Association’s audited financial statements.
I won’t steal Seth’s thunder, because you really should go read his story, complete with some quotes from Greg McGarity regarding why that stockpile of cash and marketable instruments is necessary. In short, McGarity says that they like to keep six months of operating expenses available in case of the unforeseen. If you’re scoring at home, you’re probably asking what sort of contingency could require one of the nation’s largest athletic departments to go six months without revenue. I did too. I think it involves a scenario in which the SEC TV contract is cancelled or broken. And an entire football season’s worth of stadium revenue doesn’t come in. And Hartman Fund donations go down by more than half. In other words, something on the order of World War III or a zombie apocalypse. In either case, we’ll have a helluva lot more important things to wonder about than whether the Kirbycopter is fueled up.
McGarity also raises the specter of lawsuits regarding athlete compensation and concussions. That, friends, is hogwash. For one, paying 300 student-athletes (which I think would include every athlete in every sport the University fields at the Division I level plus some) $30,000 per year (which frankly works out to about $17/hour) would come to $9 million per year. And I find it very hard to believe that the University does not have or couldn’t procure general liability coverage which would pay concussion claims.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a spendthrift. I think it not only makes sense to have a reserve fund, but that it would be outrageously irresponsible not to. That being said, it does chap my hindparts a little that the AA recently announced a $63 milliion Sanford Stadium renovations and promptly asked donors to pony up $53 milliion of it in donations.
It’s McGarity trying to have his cake and eat it, too. Trying to have both the best facilities money can buy but not having to spend any money to buy them. It makes him look more and more like that guy you know who never, ever picks up the check at lunch and who gave you a crumpled up $10 Applebee’s gift card as a wedding gift. Nobody likes that guy.
But the thing is, McGarity is set in his ways. He’s never, ever going to learn that he could deplete that reserve fund by an additional $27 million, still have an utterly obscene war chest, and in the process buy some fan goodwill. So I’m here to help him out just a little, since that’s obviously all he’d be willing to consider. Here are a list of Greg McGarity-sized projects which I as a Bulldog fan would love to see implemented without dipping further into my wallet.
I’m leaving off the list things that have been done recently or are in process like upgrades at Foley Field and Stegeman Coliseum, but if you have thoughts on the scope of those projects feel free to chime in.
Better televisions in the concessions areas and concourses. 100 mounted 46 inch flat screen televisions at $800 a pop comes to $80,000 plus installation. That would be a small investment to improve the game day atmosphere. Also, while some committed fans don’t want to miss a snap, I expect some would get up to handle their concessions and elimination needs during the action if they knew they’d be able to watch the game in line without needing binoculars. This might mean the rest of us could get a hot dog at halftime without missing the first half of the third quarter. Speaking of which . . .
Take a hit on concessions. The concession costs at Georgia home games aren’t outrageous by any stretch, especially compared to pro venues. But for those bringing a family to the game it wouldn’t kill anyone to cut the cost of a souvenir Coke or a hot dog by a buck. Cut Aramark a check for their loss, but work out a promotion with the vendor, one of the oldest and most closely associated sponsors of UGA athletics. Assuming the 94,000 folks assembled six Saturdays a year ordered one discounted item apiece at every game that comes to $564,000.
Throw some cash at the band. The Redcoats are a critical part of the game day experience before fans even enter the stadium. As the recent effort to build a new tower on the band practice field shows, $250,000 per year could do wonders for the finest band in the whole damn land.
Welcome pavilions. I’ve been to a couple of other schools where there are structures that serve as a sort of first aid tent/welcome center/meeting spot for home and visiting fans. Just an open air, 12x12 tent would do the job. Staff those suckers with students six times per year to help visitors find their cars, get a restaurant recommendation, or to cool off and wait for friends to catch up to them on the march back to their cars. My back of the napkin math says that 7 such stations could be set up and staffed for under $80,000 per year. For weary visiting fans it would go a long way to boost the image of Bulldog hospitality.
Don’t raise ticket prices and donation minimums. Our Athletic Director is quick to remind people that Georgia has been slower to raise ticket prices and donation requirements than many SEC coevals. That’s like saying you’re getting by on a smaller salary than your neighbor who just bought a new Range Rover. I think a lot of donors and fans would be more willing to pay a little more if only they were given the impression that their donation was going into Sanford Stadium, not a big pool of Scrooge McDuck-style money. That’s the opposite of the impression this Athletic Association has cultivated for much of the past decade, even before McGarity’s tenure.
I’m sure you could think of some more. Feel free to brainstorm your own ideas, or to discuss whatever else requires the collective wisdom of the group.