With the status of South Carolina’s home game against Georgia now certain, a range of ever-shifting contingency plans and other factors no longer hang in the balance – including a potential financial hit for the school’s athletics department and the local economy.
According to the school’s annual budget, the game is projected to produce $4.45 million in net ticket sales. The decision to move the game to Sunday should have a smaller effect, but not nearly as big as was looming with the more drastic options suggested.
Home games against Georgia and other schools at that level are usually the top revenue generators of each season, and a move or cancellation would have put a dent in the significant boost – at least $7 million – to the local economy the games provide, according to USC sports and entertainment professor Tom Regan.
“You take the tickets that are sold, which are at $80 a pop for the good ones,” said Regan, who has done three economic impact studies on Gamecocks athletics. “And that’s sold out. The 10,000-12,000 that Georgia gets, they’re going to be traveling in because that’s the SEC game.”
He said the night-game factor would have impacted spending from fans in town staying overnight. Plus, some fans from Georgia and elsewhere in the state often arrive Friday night. Some of that timing could be thrown off.
The uncertainty about the game status had already meant some fans Regan knew canceled trips that involved flying from far off cities such as New York and Chicago. Games against Georgia are usually a good draw for alums.
The Georgia tickets are tied for the most expensive in USC’s season ticket package with Texas A&M. The $80 price is $10 more than Tennessee and $25 more than any other home game.
After reports had floated that either the Georgia Dome in Atlanta or Sanford Stadium in Athens could be a possible location, South Carolina announced Wednesday evening the game would stay at Williams-Brice. Thursday evening, it was finally announced the game would be moved to Sunday, after earlier the SEC had announced a postponement of the Florida-LSU game.
A year ago, the damage resulting from historic flooding meant South Carolina’s home game against LSU was played at Baton Rouge. South Carolina got the proceeds from the game, but tickets were sold at a discount and attendance was only 42,058.
The SEC has an insurance policy that covers lost game revenue for all 14 schools, but it’s unclear how much it covers, according to the Associated Press.
“Last year, South Carolina took a big hit,” Regan said, noting the school had to refund many of the tickets. “It’s an opportunity cost you can’t make up. You cannot make those dollars up.
“Changing a game is an economic issue. ... South Carolina was out millions of dollars in many aspects of the economy.”
Some fans might have already made the trip Thursday as part of larger preparation for the storm. A large segment of ticket holders live in evacuated areas and had their plans already altered by the hurricane.
“Those hotel rooms and stuff, what you’re seeing is the people who are coming for the game, I can personally speak for the people that I tailgate with, they came in Thursday because they wanted to get away from the coast early,” Regan said.
Game by game
Cost per game of a USC season ticket:
Georgia - $80
Texas A&M - $80
Tennessee - $70
Missouri - $55
ECU - $35
UMASS - $25
W. Carolina - $20