When the South Carolina football team charges onto the Williams-Brice Stadium field next week for its season opener against North Carolina, Steve Spurrier wants to see a loud, full house exhorting the Gamecocks to victory.
The same goes for Charles Bloom, a USC senior associate athletics director whose duties include ticket sales. With just over a week before the 6 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 29, the athletics department has sold almost 52,000 season tickets, the most since 2008 when the YES seat-donation program was implemented.
Expectations for USC’s season are high, Bloom said.
“We have a combination of things – back-to-back Top 10 finishes, a good home schedule, one of the most exciting players (Jadeveon Clowney) in South Carolina history, and a team that’s a preseason Top 10,” he said. “When you put that all together, playing in the Southeastern Conference, it’s a recipe for a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of tickets sold.”
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He said the athletics department didn’t set a goal for season tickets, noting that other elements such as single-game sales, student tickets and the visiting team’s tickets also play a role in filling the stadium.
“We want to sell out all the games. That’s really the goal,” he said. “We didn’t set any other goal. We’ve sold out Clemson and Florida (for single-game tickets), and we’re very close to selling out North Carolina.”
Other ticket strategies include a pair of three-game mini-plans, which group UNC, Kentucky and Coastal Carolina in one pack and Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Florida in the other, for fans who don’t want to commit to full season-ticket packages.
Tickets for the Florida and Clemson games are available as part of a limited amount of season ticket packages that remain on sale.
Bloom said increased season-ticket sales are affected not just by costs – the lowest-level Gamecock Club donor will spend $885 for a pair of season tickets – but also by the 46-inch high-definition televisions many families have in their dens, where they can comfortably watch their favorite team almost every week.
The No. 6 ranked Gamecocks, who have won a school-record 11 games in each of the past two seasons, now routinely appear on TV, with the season opener against the Tar Heels to be broadcast on ESPN.
USC has tried to hold on to customers – those who already have tickets and those who are considering attending a game – by enhancing the experience at Williams-Brice Stadium with things such as the recently-upgraded video board.
“We want to make the game-day environment so good that fans who are debating whether to come to the game or not will make the decision to come,” Bloom said. “There are things you can do at a game that you can’t do or be a part of on television. You just have to be there, and that’s what we’re trying to sell. It’s being in the crowd when ‘2001’ goes off. It’s a lot better in person.”
South Carolina’s positive direction still can’t match some of its rivals in the football-mad SEC.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported the fervor surrounding Alabama, which has a waiting list of 29,000 for season tickets on top of the 84,000 already sold, and Texas A&M, which has a waiting list of 20,000 on top of the 75,000 sold.
LSU and Mississippi State are the other two SEC schools with waiting lists.
“College football in the SEC has been ingrained throughout the generations,” Bloom said. “We’ve grown up with it, and it’s important to a lot of people. It’s indicative of the numbers of tickets that people buy, and it’s indicative of the passion you see and hear every day on radio and television and read about in newspapers. We’re very fortunate to be part of that. With the success we’ve had the past couple of years, the passion has grown here.”
Season tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 4SC-FANS, or by visiting GamecocksOnline.com/ Football2013.
USC’s season ticket sales over five seasons: