Last Sunday, after Vanderbilt earned an invitation to play Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Memphis, James Franklin issued a challenge to Commodores fans.
“Not only do I want to sell the game out but I want to sell it out faster than it has ever been sold out before,” the first-year coach said, “so we can show this country that we mean business.”
At the pace they’re going, Vanderbilt fans might just meet Franklin’s ambitious hopes.
Last Friday, Vanderbilt sold out its 10,000-seat allotment but the Commodores haven’t stopped selling.
As of Monday morning, more than 11,000 tickets had been sold. Director of sales and marketing Steve Walsh said the school would continue to request as many 1,000-seat increments as needed.
“Our plan is to continue to sell up until the game itself,” Walsh said. “We don’t have any intention of stopping now that we’ve gotten through the initial allotment. We’re just kind of putting our foot on the gas and really trying to sell as many as we can. Our hope is that there is as much black and gold in that stadium as possible.”
Franklin echoed those thoughts last week.
After Tweeting he wants 20,000 Vanderbilt fans, he upped the number on Wednesday before practice.
“I found out the stadium holds 60 [thousand], so the number I am comfortable with now is 30,000 is what I expect to sell for this game,” he said.
Tickets cost $56, including processing fees, and can be purchased by calling (615) 322-4653, or by going online at www.vanderbilt.edu/bowl/tickets, or by visiting the McGugin Center ticket office. Tickets purchased through Vanderbilt will be connected to the school’s initial block of 10,000.
Walsh said Vanderbilt’s marketing department plans to continue running television and radio ads. In addition, they’ll have a “call night” to target alumni and local residents.
“The 10,000 wasn’t really our goal,” Walsh said. “We haven’t really put a number figure on it from a ticket office standpoint. We’re just going to get out there and try to sell as many as possible.”
Vanderbilt averaged 32,873 fans at seven home games this season — actually down from 33,269 the year before. Franklin continually pushed for better attendance as often, as was the case especially against Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky, the opposing fans blanketed nearly one side of the stadium.
Franklin and the Commodores have appeared to win over — literally — a few fans as their 6-6 season carried on. Nearly a thousand showed up and packed the Student Life Center for the bowl announcement.
“I think it is more exciting, not surprising,” Walsh said. “We’ve seen the passion of our fan base and certainly the way they have responded to the energy of Coach Franklin. I think this is just a sort of a culmination of that from the season’s standpoint. Our fan base has really taken his mantras and really adopted them. He sent out the message, threw down the gauntlet and our fans have responded.”