With Jacksonville State’s 2013 football game with Auburn now a non-starter, Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe sees an opportunity for the program to do something nice for the home folks.
JSU and Auburn had contracted a game for next Oct. 19 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but when the Southeastern Conference announced its 2013 conference schedule earlier this month Texas A&M appeared on Auburn’s schedule on that date. The conflict could not be resolved.
The fallout leaves JSU with two vacancies on its 12-game 2013 schedule, opening the possibility for a lineup with seven regular-season home games, which has happened only once in the post-war era of the program.
“If you look at the model that says you build your home base second after establishing your conference schedule I think there’s a chance for us to build a stronger home base with our fans,” Crowe said Tuesday. “Play more games at home. That would be a direction that, quite honestly, I think is probably time to do that. We never scheduled with that in mind before, and I think it’s hurt us some times.
“I think we’ve got a great place to play. I think we have a stronger fan base potential than what we’re actually realizing and I think if we could schedule to affect that fan base more positively it would be a good thing for Jacksonville State.”
The most home games the Gamecocks have played in a season since moving to Division I is six. They did play seven once, in 1972 including a game with the Quantico Marines. There have been times they have had as few as four.
Ticket sales from the two additional home games would generate approximately 60 percent of the $500,000 guarantee JSU will be receiving from Auburn’s breach of contract, according to some university officials, but the extra home games would be more of an interest generator than a revenue stream.
JSU athletics department spokesman Greg Seitz, using data he obtained from the ticket office, told The Star Tuesday the Gamecocks generate approximately $150,000 in gate receipts per home game, depending on the opponent and other promotions, although that figure appears inconsistent with what the school reports to the NCAA.
In 2009, the school generated a total of $105,362 in football ticket sales for four homes games, according to reports filed with the NCAA. Then-athletics director Oval Jaynes told The Star in 2010 the program needed to stop giving away so many tickets.
It should be noted 2009 was in an era before JSU expanded to its stadium to its current 24,000-seat configuration, which opened just prior to the end of fiscal 2010.
Still, in the years since the stadium expansion, the university has reported to the NCAA total football ticket revenue of $209,141 in fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010 (five home games), $305,312 in fiscal 2011 (eight games, including a playoff game) and will be reporting $171,573 in its report for fiscal year 2012 (four games). Seitz said later he was uncertain if the report figures included season tickets and priority seating.
Until the SEC schedule release, JSU athletics director Warren Koegel said he had been assured by Auburn there were no problems playing the game. The schools would like to play, but the earliest it could happen in JSU’s world is 2016.
“I fully understand the situation Auburn’s in,” Crowe said. “(Auburn AD Jay Jacobs) told me whenever we have an open date and you have an open date you’ve got a game. That’s as good as hearing it inside my family when he told me that.
“We’ll find an opportunity. Just the fact we’re able to play one of the state teams is something I think everybody at Jacksonville State would like to do. I don’t think there’s any reasons it won’t be done in the future.”
Koegel called the game “important” to all of the program’s constituents. Fans, parents and players seemed genuinely disappointed it won’t happen in their immediate future.
“Kind of bummed out that Auburn canceled the game against us next year,” Gamecocks linebacker Ben Endress wrote on his Twitter feed.
In the meantime, Koegel is talking to numerous schools he declined to identify to find the games. He was adamant one of the vacancies being filled with a home game.
With JSU already assured of the Auburn guarantee, he didn’t sound concerned the other be another guarantee game.
That might be fine with Crowe.
“We all in this league suffer from not having frequency of home games so that people get in the habit of coming,” the coach said. “Look at the SEC; they know how to do it. They’re all playing seven, eight games at home. That’s how you build that crowd.”
At Auburn, one of those seven or eight games would have been JSU — until the SEC got in the way.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.