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Former UK running back says fans make big difference to team when they attend game

By LARRY VAUGHT

Former Kentucky running back Raymond Sanders, who ran for 1,542 yards and 11 touchdowns and 463 yards receiving and one touchdown, from 2010-2013, has been following the storyline about the number of tickets unsold for today’s opening game against Central Michigan.

He’s read how fans are unhappy with ticket prices, seat locations, parking passes and more.

“So what would you like to see us do to fill the stands up other than win?” Sanders posted on social media.

Sanders doesn’t buy the argument that “true” fans will return if the team wins since UK won seven games each of the last two season.

“When Auburn, Georgia and other teams weren’t winning, their fans still show up. When our basketball team went to the NIT and lost to Robert Morris our fans still showed up,” Sanders said. “Before Cal got there, y’all showed up. Y’all pick and choose not knowing you all are 65 percent of helping us win.

“Because they don’t win games is the excuse (for not going to games)? When Bama was going 6-6 they still didn’t have this problem. It’s a fact that you (fans) are the energy. Away games you all don’t see the difference?

“Yes some things can be helped by the school and athletics to make the game day experience second to none but how can they plan that when you all won’t show up. Only time we show up are for ranked games and new facilities. The best fans in Nation can be there no matter what.”

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  1. Well, I can say that when the team was 0-10-1, I showed up. When the team was any record I showed up, so long as I had tickets. Rain, snow, sleet, hurricane, hot sun, rainy nights, at Stoll, at Commonwealth, at IU, at UT, at Vandy, at Miss St. At Georgia, At Florida, at Bowl games, I showed up.

    But, when I decided to give up my tickets, and everything that went with completely dedicating my weekends to UK football, including the travel, I did so because I concluded the program took fans for granted, the program was not concerned about winning at a high level, and NOT INTERESTED IN THE FANS.

    I love UK football. Have since I was fist introduced to it when Larry Sieple faked a punt against #1 Ole Miss and UK won the game. I will always love UK football, as a fan. I just don’t send my money, or give my total weekends to it any more.

    I took a look at the UK Athletics budget this morning out of curiosity. In 2010, the budget was about 80 milliion, and in 2017, it was 133 million. The SEC sends about 40 to 45 million to UK each year, and the balance must be earned via ticket sales, parking passes, K Fund donations, and sale of licensed products, primarily generated from men’s basketball and football.

    Those empty seats cannot be sustained for long without serious financial impact on the entire athletics program at UK. If there are 20,000 unsold football tickets for 7 games in a season, that is 140,000 unsold tickets, and if the average cost is $30 each, that is a loss of revenue of about 4.5 million. That means cuts in the athletics program must occur to remain in balance.

    The University has mistreated its football fans for decades.

    Perhaps the big donors will cough up the lost revenue from the lost ticket sales. Then next year, they may lose another 5,000 per game in ticket sales.

    That sounds like a death spiral to me.

    Why not get the big money guys to simply fund the program, and put fake people dummies in the stands for the benefit of the TV cameras.

  2. I respect Sanders, but he didn’t address the issues the article outlined IMO. Of course fans should show up, of course they make a difference for the players! That said, they have been doing that forever at UK too, where they have endured losing season after losing season. They will show up in the future too if treated right by this administration, and definitely will if the product on the field is quality football for a decent price.

    1. Here are some ideas to test in the short term. Lower ticket prices across the board. Make K fund donations voluntary in exchange for better seats, and maybe more access to UK sports teams. If you buy a season ticket, you get free parking on a first come first serve basis with a season ticket pass. Every other paying fan must park where they can, even downtown Lexington, and ride buses to Kroger Field. Some things can’t be avoided. Things like this would go a long way in filling Kentucky’s football stadium. This will never happen. In this day and time it is all about squeezing every dollar they can out of the fans, and jacking their seat assignments all around for big money and ghost fans who don’t really fill seats apparently.

  3. So if the fans are put on a blimp and charged $10,000 a ticket they should still show up and not complain, right? The arguments made here AGAINST the fans are bogus. First UK fans have always supported the team whether they were winning or not. From UK’s own web site I found that UK has averaged 56,527 fans since Commonwealth Stadium was built. For the first 25 years of the stadium that was the capacity. That includes a lot of teams that were not great. How anyone can say that UK fans don’t support the program is just absurd.

    The plain fact is the school ticked off the fans by pushing them out of their long held seats and giving those seats to someone else. Maybe they do need more money to build a better program. But the team isn’t exactly broke. And they made a huge miscalculation that the fans would be OK with paying more for worse seats. The fans were there until that happened. So we are now being told we must support the team no matter what. Let the club box seat holders and the suite fans pay for the upgrades. They got the benefit from them. It’s like the university expects fans to take whatever they give them. Well guess what. It doesn’t work that way.

    This isn’t likely to go away. The university made the fans very upset and I can see why they feel that way. If they want all new fans let’s see them get them. They screwed up and lecturing the fans won’t change that. The fans have made it possible to play in that stadium. They feel like they aren’t welcome there now. It was a big risk kowtowing to the big money interests at the expense of the dedicated fans. Kentucky is not Ohio St.. They have to walk a fine line between getting the money they need and not driving away the fans. UK crossed that line. If they had just raised ticket prices without moving the fans away from the better seats maybe this wouldn’t have happened. But obviously a lot of UK fans think just like I do – you shouldn’t make the game a sport for rich people. If you do that the regular people won’t show up.

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