Georgia Southern President Dr. Kyle Marrero has approved a plan to begin the 2020 Georgia Southern football season with up to a 25 percent capacity crowd. Paulson Stadium’s listed capacity attendance is 25,000, meaning attendance will be up to 6,250 at each of the six Eagle home games this fall.
Athletic Director Jared Benko has indicated the Eagles plan on trying to repurpose some areas to add additional seating, as well as opening up the grass area on the hills once again for seating.
“Right now the plan is to be right around 6,250,” Benko said. “Season ticket accounts have until September 1st to notify us if they are planning to opt in or opt out. Once we understand what we have left, then we will actually start physically assigning tickets. The hill area will allow us to back fill some areas where season ticket holders maybe didn’t get as many tickets as they wanted, and we can use that as extra inventory.”
There has also been an allotment of tickets set aside for Georgia Southern students. Currently there are 1,250 tickets set aside for students. According to Benko there will be a lottery to determine the students that will be allowed to each game.
“Students are a huge part of our planning process, because they help make Paulson such an intimidating place to play,” Benko said. “Students are important to us, so we weren’t going to treat them disproportionately to anyone else. They will be in clusters of six, eight and 10.”
250 additional tickets are set aside for the band and the cheerleaders. It is yet to be determined how many tickets would be set aside for the visiting team. With the 1,500 taken from the 6,250 would leave 4,750 for season ticket holders. Last year there were over 6,500 season tickets sold, so if the numbers are currently close to where they were last year some season ticket holders could be left in the cold.
The biggest question right now is what kind of a financial hit the athletic department is taken, and what will be the consequences. The Eagles lost $1.4 million when Mississippi canceled their game with Georgia Southern. The addition of the Army game made up $225,000, but lack of ticket sales and other lost income puts the athletic department in quite a jam.
“We are trying to be as bare bones as possible,” Benko said. “What we are currently trying to do is mitigate all expenses that are not essential. Total scholarship cost is about $5.6 million, but there is no plan to cut any current athletic programs at Georgia Southern.”
One of the possible benefits of Benko attempting to fill out the Eagles schedule is he feels he has made inroads with some schools, and is hopeful of a possible Power Five conference school paying a visit to Paulson in the future.
“Through these discussions with Army, and others we have started talking about some home and home deals,” said Benko. “We talked to plenty of Power Five teams, and while they couldn’t fit us in this year, those discussions made me hopeful that we can work something out for the future. It may not be a home and home, it may mean we have to do a two for one, but I’m hopeful we can get a Power Five team in Paulson.”
Benko also cleared up any thought that the Eagles were still trying to find a replacement for the Boise State game on September 5th. Benko said that they are sticking with the season opener being Sept. 12th against Campbell.
“We are going to stay with 11 games right now,” said Benko. “I think it allows us an extra week of preparation, which we can use. It also helps us with testing, which we have done a great job of. Hats off to Brandy Clouse and her staff, as well as our student athletes for exercising good judgement. With Ole Miss not engaged in talks to pay us, it doesn’t make sense for us to pay an FCS team to come to campus, and conversely I don’t want to start the season on the road.”
For a complete look at the Paulson Stadium policies for this year go to gseagles.com