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From The Stands –  How much is too much?

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Tennessee Athletics is on top of the SEC but at what costs to Vol fans?

The last From The Stands column highlighted how Tennessee had captured its’ third straight SEC All-Sports Title awarded annually by USA Today.  Tennessee earned the award with a balance of quality across all of the men’s and women’s programs that had most Tennessee teams competing for SEC titles and many for national titles.  

Tennessee Baseball is still in the hunt for a national title having just won the NCAA Knoxville Region in the hunt for another trip to the College World Series.  Athletic Director Danny White has established a high standard of excellence at Tennessee and it appears there is no end in sight. 

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To what extent is this level of success costing Tennessee fans?  We know that Tennessee Athletics takes in tens of millions each year from multiple sources of revenue including $51M for the SEC 2024 league distribution.  Tennessee Football has gone from giving away extra free tickets for season ticket renewals to being sold out with a waiting list.  Obviously the quality of the product counts and makes the difference in ticket demand.  So how has Tennessee Athletics success impacted the average season ticket holder?  Let’s examine a personal example.

I’ve been a season ticket holder in football since 1983.  I’ve experienced good, great and lousy seasons but have never had a bad GameDay on the river.  I certainly had disappointing games but never a bad GameDay at Neyland Stadium.  As all Tennessee fans know, it’s just a special day when Tennessee Football tees it up on Rocky Top.  

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To look at the financial impact since Danny White arrived on ticket costs in my section at Neyland, I’ll use the 2021 season as the baseline for cost comparisons on recent season ticket increases.  2021 was White’s first year at Tennessee.  Tennessee implemented a season ticket pricing structure where contributions were built into the renewal price for 2022.  Any fans that had tickets that had been grandfathered and did not require contributions for renewals lost that status.  Most if not all of those fans were long-time ticket holders that had supported Tennessee Football through thick and thin for decades.  So for 2022 after the new pricing structure was implemented, my annual renewal costs increased by approximately 33%.  Obviously that level of increase does not go unnoticed and I’m aware of several fans in my section that did not renew their season tickets for 2022.  

Ticket prices for 2023 remained stable. 

Now let’s move ahead on the calendar to 2024.  Tennessee announced last fall that the tickets in my north end zone section would increase by an additional 25%. So now in the course of the first four years of the Danny White era at Tennessee, my football season ticket renewal cost has increased by 67%.

I strongly expect there once again will be more familiar faces missing in my section this fall.  I suspect season ticket holders in other Vols and Lady Vols sports may be seeing a similar trend in their season ticket renewal costs.  I couldn’t locate any numbers on what the amount of increase an average P5 football season ticket price has gone up over the past 3 years. Consequently, I don’t know how Tennessee compares to other P5 schools.  I do know Tennessee fans as well as fans at other SEC schools that have scaled back on the number of home games they attend so they can take advantage of the resell market.  

Many long-time fans can’t handle giving up their season tickets despite the increasing costs as the tickets have practically become part of the family through the years.  Will this loyalty continue?  Does it even matter to Tennessee Athletics who has a waiting list of fans wanting Tennessee season football tickets?

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