Home More fun with public-records requests: A look at UVA Football season-ticket sales

More fun with public-records requests: A look at UVA Football season-ticket sales

carla williams
UVA President Jim Ryan, football coach Tony Elliott and Athletics Director Carla Williams at the groundbreaking for the new Virginia Football Operations Center. Photo: UVA Athletics

The single-season record for UVA Football season-ticket sales is the 39,123 season tickets sold back in the 2004 season.

As Edith and Archie, sitting at the piano, used to serenade us, “Those were the days.”

That UVA Football team spent a good bit of the 2004 season ranked in the Top 10 nationally before fading down the stretch, losing three of its last four games.

The next season saw Virginia finish 7-5, ahead of a run of three losing seasons in the next four that cost Al Groh his job, ushering in the Mike London era, which featured five losing seasons in his six years with the big whistle.

Bronco Mendenhall had things, briefly, moving in the right direction, peaking with the school’s second-ever Orange Bowl invite, and first-ever Orange Bowl appearance, in 2019.

Carla Williams ran Mendenhall off in 2021, and her hand-picked successor, Tony Elliott, for some reason, decided to strip down the moderately successful program that he’d been handed by Mendenhall to start over from total scratch.

We’re two three-win seasons later now.

Anybody want to hazard a guess how many football season tickets have been sold to date?

I got the number from a public-records request from the University of Virginia: 14,915.

Now, yeah, sure, we’ve still got a ways to go until the opening kickoff with Richmond on Aug. 31, but …

The numbers have been trending down for a while – yes, the last 20 years, dating back to that 2004 peak, but even just since Williams was appointed athletics director in 2017.

Since the Williams AD hire, we’ve seen a season-ticket-sales peak at 21,982 in 2019, with a team coming off an 8-5 finish and a win in the Belk Bowl, and a schedule featuring home games with Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Skip ahead past the 2020 COVID season to 2021, UVA sold 21,093 season tickets that year.

After the Mendenhall departure, the 2022 number was down 11.2 percent, to 18,732, before declining further in 2023, to 16,926.

Even from the modest Williams-era peak in 2019, sales were down 23.0 percent through the last full year for which we have numbers, 2023.

From that massive 39,123 season-ticket-sales peak of 2004, we’re down, as of the 2023 numbers, 56.7 percent.

And, bad news, even the sliver of hope that some of us have – if nobody else, that I have – for the 2024 football season obviously isn’t moving the needle on season-ticket sales.

I have people worrying that I’m off my meds based on my public pronouncements to the effect that I think Elliott will get his program into a north-of-the-Mason-Dixon bowl this fall.

So, there’s optimism, from me, the negative guy, who supposedly hates UVA Athletics, and then there’s the home schedule, which …

OK, it’s not all that good: Richmond, Maryland, Boston College, Louisville, North Carolina – the one game worth anything – then just one game in November, SMU.

I have optimism that I’ll be sitting in the press box at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium watching a football game in December.

I don’t have any optimism that we’ll see more than even 45,000 people in Scott Stadium on the way there.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].