By LARRY VAUGHT
Guy Ramsey, director of strategic communications for UK Athletics, wants disgruntled/frustrated Kentucky fans to know that their thoughts and complaints are taken seriously by UK officials.
Recently almost 600 UK fans have reached out to me in various ways with stories about why they have given up season tickets to various sports ranging from price increases to parking pass losses to seat locations being changed to not being able to compete with big KFund donors for priority seats.
It started when UK fans Jackie and Tad Long gave up season tickets to numerous UK sports and explained to me it was over their frustration when they could not secure reserved seats in the new UK baseball stadium despite their K-Fund standing and season ticket purchases.
Ramsey actually called Jackie Long himself a day after another UK employee called her husband after her Twitter rant because that was the phone number listed on their Twitter account. Ramsey said in hindsight, the UK employee should not have called Tad Long and that he called Jackie Long to apologize.
“We try to reach out and explain to fans how awesome fans are to UK,” Ramsey said. “We try to be as open as possible. We believe in over the phone conversations, not direct messages on social media or emails. We want to talk to people.”
One fan told me his father — going back to the days at Stoll Field — once I had 18 season tickets he shared with family and friends without providing any donation to UK. Obviously, those days are over of no donations.
“One year (late 70s) UK screwed up the order and Dad left a message to see if someone could help,” the fan told me. “I remember (then UK athletics director) Cliff Hagan himself called our house (I answered the phone) to personally apologize for the mixup and to tell Dad it was corrected.
“That was a big deal and Cliff turned a bad situation into something Dad told everyone about. That simply showed to the average fan that they cared!
“His friends passed away one by one over the years and he was down to his personal four tickets. Because of declining health, I took over those tickets beginning in the (Bill) Curry years — he did attend a few of the Mumme games with me and we still had a great time. They weren’t the greatest seats but they were OUR seats.
“When UK revamped the stadium they took those seats away and our blue parking pass — although they did offer to make an exception on the parking pass if we ponied up $2,500, no thanks! After that I kept just two season tickets and have been selling them (face value) to a buddy of mine for several years. I personally haven’t attended a UK home game in probably four years and have no plans to go back.”
I told Ramsey how many UK fans had reached out to me and the general theme seemed to be like the one above — UK just didn’t care about “average” fans. Then Kentucky basketball posted a message on Twitter Friday that the players were “about to hit the water with some of our most loyal supporters from the @UK_Fund.” That message was not received well by many fans.
“I understand why some people were reacting the way they did. The intent was good but probably the phrasing was a little poor. We could have said these were some of the most loyal fans. We are not saying KFund members are the most loyal of our fan base. It was just unfortunate with the choice of words with how upset some fans are. KFund members are loyal UK fans but so are non KFund fans.
“We recognize we are this state’s university and in some cases the state’s athletics department. The people of the state are the heartbeat of what we do.”
Ramsey noted how the Big Blue Caravan in the spring that went across the state didn’t cost fans anything to attend — other than gas money to get to the event — and was meant to give fans a chance to connect to UK coaches, players and administrators.
“Money does go a long way and is a lot of the reason we can do what we do but it is far from everything when it comes to fans,” Ramsey said. “We recognize the best thing we can do for fans is win. The best customer service is to win games no matter where you are sitting. That’s why we have been building facilities to let student-athletes do that and it shows over the last 16 years.
“To us, fans are fans. I know there is a perception out there that believes that is not the case but regardless of anyone’s opinion the blue blood and passion fans have is the same regardless of who you are. Fans are who made UK sports. We know that.”
He says if fans have a complaint or question, tweet @ukathletics or call the main UK tickets office where “their job is customer service.”
He says problems with seating in the new UK baseball stadium are similar to those UK encountered with the football seat relocation three years ago and will face in the renovated Rupp Arena going forward.
“We admit we are learning on the fly. We are aware of some frustrations and what is going well and what isn’t,” Ramsey said. “We also realize that we can do a better job communicating with fans about a lot of things and that’s what we intend to do.”