The record for the last two seasons may be 4-20, but you'd never know it by the crowd that showed up Sunday for Dore Jam, the football team's annual fan appreciation day. On a beautiful, sun-splashed afternoon with fallishly comfortable temperatures, a crowd of fans snaked along Natchez Trace for half a block before the doors were even opened.
Once inside, the crowds quickly queued up to obtain autographs from Johnson and marquee players like quarterback Jay Cutler. Kids were allowed to attempt soccer goals against members of the men's soccer squad, or play the interactive games set up outside. Older fans, meanwhile, got a chance to talk up the upcoming season with the padded gladiators who will suit up for another season, which begins with a clash against South Carolina on Sept. 4.
It was all part of marketing effort designed to ratchet up ticket sales and generate a buzz around Vanderbilt football. The annual event, conducted for the third time under the regime of head coach Bobby Johnson, would have to be termed a big success.
A large crowd munched on free food provided by the athletic department, and stocked up on the ubiquitous 2004 schedule refrigerator magnets.
In just a few weeks, the team will once again be put to the test against a rugged SEC schedule. But on this day, players seemed only too happy to mug for the cameras and enjoy the glorious fallish weather.
The ticket office, meanwhile, announced that season ticket sales had already exceeded that of 2003. By Monday, the ticket office should surpass the 8,000-mark, and the number is already more than the 7,700 tickets sold last season, said Vanderbilt's new Director of Marketing and Promotions, Eric Nichols.
"The early response has been very good," Nichols said. "The numbers are not where we want them, but we are off to a very positive start. More than anything, the response by renewals and prospective buyers has been extremely positive."
Nichols contributed the sales increase to several factors. A home schedule that includes a season closer against Tennessee typically spikes season ticket sales. Additionally, a number of veteran Commodore players have started for two years and have gained local and national attention, resulting in greater fan awareness.
Season tickets range from $99 to $140. A special Family Plan featuring two adult tickets and two youth tickets also is available for $215. To purchase season tickets, call (615) 322-GOLD or (877) 44-VANDY.