Is Charging $25 for the Spring Game + Sugarland a Bad Idea?


As Mississippi State fans, we’ve fallen in love with every move Scott Stricklin and our athletic department has made.  Coaching hires, facility upgrades, #Hailstate, billboards, etc. (with the exception of black football jerseys).  There hasn’t been much room to argue with a group who bought a $6.1 million big screen TV for the football stadium, and is making plans for expansion so more people can watch it.  But is charging $25 to an event that has ALWAYS been free a good idea?

The reason for the entry fee is that country duo Sugarland will be playing after the Spring game.  My personal feelings about Sugarland aside, how many Mississippi State football fans double as fans of a blonde haired girl singing next to a guy who’s hat makes him look like a German Shephard? But then again, how many Sugarland fans double as fans of a bunch of guys in tights chasing a pigskin?

There’s no doubt MSU’s athletic department has been bombarded with e-mails complaining about this.  After all, the spring football game is a practice. Most of the fans that value the game are hard core Dawg fans who want to get a look at some of the players they haven’t seen.  It, along with the baseball game, is the center-point of Super Bulldog Weekend.  The University of Alabama (home of the most rabid college football fans and two of the last three national championships) charges $0 for their spring game – which is packed out.  For a family of four who usually come to Starkville and spend about $100 for a fun Saturday at SBW, the price just went up to $200.

On Thursday evening, Chad Thomas (Director of Marketing), tweeted a link to a message board post which pointed out the positives of the move.  Really?  There is so much negative reaction to this that he is snooping around message boards looking for anyone who agrees with this move?  …and then tweeting about it!?

There could be some positives to this unique idea.  The spring game may be filled with people who wouldn’t ordinarily care about Mississippi State football, and this may be an opportunity to introduce them to the Bulldogs.  $25 is a pretty cheap ticket for a front-line music act so Davis Wade might be packed, in turn, generating a lot of money for MSU.  With Sugarland playing afterwards, people will now stay for the entire game instead of wandering out at halftime.  But we don’t know for sure, this has NEVER been done before.

The problem I have with this idea is that many State football fans will be alienated in favor of Sugarland fans. Some might say that a “true” MSU fan would be happy to pay $25 for the spring game.  I don’t know about that.

Not everyone can afford tickets for themselves or their family during the fall, and this is a chance for some fans to bring their family to Davis Wade free of charge.  Those fans will likely have to stay home now.

I feel comfortable in speculating that at least 40-50% of the typical spring game crowd couldn’t care less about Sugarland and will not stay for the concert.  They may pay $25 to watch the game, but they will forego a trip to Oby’s or buying a T-shirt at the Lodge (see: Starkville economy boost).

How many of those Sugarland fans will turn into State fans because of this?  Will it be worth it if they buy a MSU sweatshirt while on campus? I have an idea in my head of what the average Jennifer Nettles fan looks like, and it may take more than a scrimmage to get them into football.

My suggestion: move Sugarland to the Hump and keep the spring game free. Let’s set an all-time attendance record because we’re excited about Bulldog football, not because there was a concert afterwards.  In this case, Sugarland really will be “down in Mississippi and up to no good”.