Marshall: Scheduling, Tickets and Football Q & A

Phillip Marshall answers a number of questions that were e-mailed to him over the weekend on a variety of topics.

The events of the past several days have sparked another spate of emails, most of them relatively friendly and polite. I'll share some of the questions those e-mails raised here, though as usual, I won't divulge names or usernames.

Not surprisingly, the subjects of most were the announcement of changes in the ticket priority system. Some were about the scheduling of Washington State in 2006 and some about just football.

Here we go:

Q: I was wondering where you got the information you printed about athletic department budgets. It seemed a little strange to me that there was such a discrepancy.

A: All but Florida's amount were reported by chief financial officers. Florida's amount came from published newspaper reports. By the way, the figures were for operating budgets. There are expenditures that aren't part of operating budgets.

Q: Here we go again. Auburn doesn't care about the people who have been loyal fans for years. Why should anybody be surprised? They've almost eliminated tailgating. Parking is a nightmare. It was a lot more fun when the stadium was smaller, there was ample parking and it didn't cost hundreds of dollars to go to one game.

A: I don't think there is any doubt that Auburn and every other school cares about the people who buy the tickets. There's no doubt that some people are close to being priced out of the market, and that's sad. I, too, miss the simpler times of 30-40 years ago, but those times won't be back. I don't blame people for being upset about the tailgating restrictions. I expected more to be done to improve that situation than was done. It's a fact that some people at Auburn, including some in influential positions, would be just as happy if there were never another football game played.

Q: It would be one thing if this change was the end of it. How long will it be before they raise prices for tickets again? I say it won't be long in coming.

A: I say you are probably right.

Q: It seems, from reading your article, that minor sports are a problem. Why does football have to support them all?

A: The NCAA requires a minimum of 18 sports for Division I-A schools. Title IX mandates equal opportunity for men and women. Basketball makes some money and baseball usually supports itself. All other sports lose money, and lots of it. The athletic department has to pay the university for every scholarship. If the athlete is from out of state, that means out-of-state tuition. Athletics departments at Alabama and Auburn are self-supporting, taking no state money. The only option other than paying for other sports out of football revenues would be for the university to pay out of its budget. In tight financial times, that simply isn't going to happen. Even if times weren't tight financially, it still wouldn't happen.

Q: How much extra money will be raised from the ticket priority increase and what will it be used for?

A: Tim Jackson, the excecutive associate athletics director, said it was anticipated the changes would bring in $3.5 million to $4.5 million per year. How it will be used is a question that would be better put to Jackson or athletics director Jay Jacobs, and it will be.

Q: I'm glad we are playing Washington State, but it would have been awesome to play Notre Dame. How close did that really come to happening?

A: Not close at all. Notre Dame and Michigan were approached. Neither had any interest. Notre Dame can take its pick of opponents and would rather play someone not quite as strong as Auburn is these days. Big Ten schools simply don't come south for regular-season games.

Q: Why don't we have a game at Washington State, or at least in Seattle? I think a lot of us Auburn fans would love a trip like that.

A: A lot of sports writers would like it, too. Washington State's stadium is simply too small to make it worthwhile. Even in Seattle, I don't think the Cougars could expect to draw more than 50,000 or so. It was a financial decision.

Q: Who do you see Auburn playing for the 12th game in 2007?

A: Jacobs has said he wants to schedule home-and-home series with BCS conference teams. I have no clue who might be available.

Q: How would you rate the opener against Georgia Tech? I say it's one of the toughest Auburn has had.

A: Certainly, it's tougher than most years. Just as certainly, it is not as tough as opening against USC in 2002 and 2003. SEC teams like to start their seasons with shakedown cruises. The Yellow Jackets, no doubt, are a decent team. They might be better than decent, but I'm going to have to be convinced.

Q: What do you think are Auburn's chances of going back to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game)?

A: I'd say their chances of going to Atlanta are proportional to their chances of beating LSU in Baton Rouge. The Auburn-LSU winner has played for the championship four of the past five years and won it three of those years.

Q: I work with a lot of Auburn fans, and we believe the game against Georgia Tech is absolutely huge. If we lose it, we'll be in a mess. I hope the players and the coaches are ready.

A: I assure you the players and coaches will be ready. If Auburn loses, it will still have won 15 of its last 16 games and 10 straight games against SEC teams. It won't mean another undefeated season is at hand if Auburn wins and it won't mean the season is lost if Auburn loses. There are 10 more regular-season games after Saturday's game, including the entire SEC schedule. A lot of people assume Auburn will be 6-0 going into Baton Rouge if it beats Tech. That remains to be seen, too.

Until next time...

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