COLUMBIA, S.C. - More than 90 percent of South Carolina football season ticket holders have promised to pay up to $395 in new annual fees to keep their seats in 2009, athletic director Eric Hyman said Tuesday.
The school's new "Yearly Equitable Seating" plan required ticket holders to pay fees of between $25 and $395 annually to keep their seats. The nearly $8 million collected will go to improving athletic facilities, Hyman said.
About 51,000 fans - or 92 percent of ticket holders - chose to keep their seats. Hyman said other programs using the fundraising tool have lost an average of up to 12 percent of their season ticket buyers.
"We're facing some challenges as a country and as a state, all the way across the board. It just goes to show you a high priority for the Gamecock nation is Gamecocks athletics," Hyman said.
The decision by some fans not to pay the fee means South Carolina season tickets will be up for sale to new customers for the first time in more than a decade, but Hyman said the school doesn't know how many season tickets will be available.
South Carolina plans to keep the fees at their current level for three years before reviewing them again, officials said.
Hyman said the extra money is needed for the Gamecocks to keep up with other Southeastern Conference programs like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina's athletic budget is ranked fifth out of the six teams in the SEC East.
The university plans next month to release a study on renovating and expanding Williams-Brice Stadium.
"It's spectacular. And the people will begin to see all the things we're trying to do crystalized. They'll see the dollars are piling back in the facilities," Hyman said.
Meanwhile, Clemson has put together a plan that asks about 40 percent of its season-ticket buyers to increase pledges to booster group IPTAY to keep or improve their seats.