Tennessee is preparing to reach out to its football fans with a special offer that will enable them to see Florida or Alabama without buying an entire season-ticket package.
Approximately 2,000 Vol season tickets have sold in the past month, bumping the total from 57,000 in mid-May to 59,000 at present. InsideTennessee got the latest figure Thursday morning from Chris Fuller, senior associate athletics director for external operations.
"We're still behind where we finished last year," Fuller said, "but I feel good about it."
Tennessee sold 61,400 season tickets prior to the 2011 season. Fans are proving more discriminating in 2012 due to continued struggles in the economy and on the field. The Vols are coming off consecutive seasons of 5-7, 7-6, 6-7 and 5-7. That's the program's worst four-year stretch, percentage-wise, since 1909-1912.
"We understand our challenge in terms of pricing, product on the field and marketing," Fuller said.
Still, Derek Dooley's Vols are not the only program feeling the pinch. Fuller noted that even Florida, which played in three BCS bowls and won two national titles during the past six years, is "having some challenges" in terms of ticket sales.
In its ongoing effort to fill Neyland Stadium Tennessee will offer the mini-package plan in mid-July. Rather than buy the entire seven-game season-ticket package, a fan will have the option of buying a three-game mini-package. He/she may select one of the two marquee home games — Florida (Sept. 15) or Alabama (Oct. 20) — plus two other home games of the fan's choosing.
"The price will be the face value of the three tickets the fan chooses," Fuller said.
Many programs refuse to break up their season tickets into sub-packages. Fuller noted that an Iowa State fan who wants to see the rivalry game with Iowa must buy the entire season-ticket package in order to do so. Tennessee officials have decided to be more flexible in their approach.
"We're trying to sell people what they want to buy," Fuller explained.
The Southeastern Conference has captured the past six BCS national titles, yet season-ticket sales are down at many SEC schools. Even so, he praised the league office for its "proactive approach" in facing the issue.
With the Vols' 2012 opener still 11 weeks away, Fuller is hopeful that Tennessee will finish strongly in terms of season-ticket sales. Still, he understands the challenge ahead.
"People naturally tend to put a positive spin on things," he conceded, "but I believe in being truthful."