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UGA Football fans already gearing up for long trip.

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UGA Football fans already gearing up for long trip

By Lee Shearer | lee.shearer@onlineathens.com | Story updated at 12:12 AM on Sunday, June 22, 2008

Georgia football fans are lining up by the thousands to travel to Phoenix for the Bulldogs' longest regular-season road trip in decades, when the team plays at Arizona State University on Sept. 20.

Georgia hasn't played a non-bowl game outside of the Southeast since 1967, when the Bulldogs lost 15-14 to the Houston Cougars.

Georgia hasn't even traveled outside the states of South Carolina and Georgia for a non-conference road game since 1972. In all those years, the only schools outside the Southeastern Conference Georgia has played on the road are Georgia Tech, Clemson and South Carolina before the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992.

Now, fans by the thousands plan to head to Phoenix in September for what could be a matchup of top 10 teams. Georgia is ranked 1 or 2 in most preseason polls, while the Sun Devils (who actually play in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix) rank in the top 20.

Dogs fans are beginning to run into a few difficulties as they plan their historic trips, however.

So many fans have booked commercial airline flights that it's become just about impossible to get a flight back home Sunday, the day after the game.

"We had to get a redeye," said Jay Wright Cook of Athens, who plans to fly in a couple of days early so as to get in some golf and sightseeing before the game, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern.

Some fans have had their plans disrupted as airlines, faced with high fuel costs, eliminate flights.

Jack Waldrep Jr., of Dallas, had his planned long weekend ruined when AirTran canceled his Thursday night flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, scheduling him instead for Friday morning.

He figures he's not the only Georgia fan to be affected.

Most fans booked flights not knowing for sure whether they'll have tickets for the game.

"Tickets, now that's a problem," Holley said.

Arizona State allocated 7,300 tickets for Georgia fans through the UGA Athletic Association ticket office, which expects to sell every one of them, said Claude Felton, UGA associate athletic director for sports communications.

But fans who've asked for those tickets may not learn until July whether they'll get them.

A rumored 14,000 UGA fans requested - and paid for - tickets to the game, but UGA officials who could confirm or deny that did not return telephone calls.

Fans who want to buy road tickets for UGA games must pay for the tickets far in advance, when they order season tickets in the spring. The road tickets, like the season tickets, are parceled out depending on how much money the ticket holder has given to the athletic association.

Those who don't make the cut get refunds when athletic association officials notify the winners and losers in early summer.

Some Georgia fans are buying tickets directly from Arizona State, which offers season tickets as low as $99 for fans willing to take seats in the nosebleed section - far less than at UGA, where fans are accustomed to paying not only the cost of tickets but an additional "donation" if they expect to get season tickets.

Fans can also wait until Aug. 14, when single-game tickets go on sale at Arizona State, but they'll have to compete with Arizona State fans.

ASU officials expect the game to be a sellout, Arizona State football spokesman Doug Tammaro said.

Some Georgia fans say they plan to tailgate before the game, just as they do in Athens and at road games against SEC schools.

But they'd better be careful.

Tailgating at Sun Devil Stadium can be dangerous, said Stuart Kent, president of the Phoenix Area Bulldog Club and field operations manager for the city of Glendale, near Phoenix.

"I always kind of liken Arizona heat to sticking your head in a broiler," Kent said. "It's dry heat, but it's hot."

The temperature at game time likely will be in the high 90s or low 100s. There's not a lot of relief at night, he said.

Kent advised fans to drink plenty of water along with the alcoholic beverage of their choice before the game.

And because Phoenix is basically a desert climate, there's no natural shade - no 100-year-old oaks like those on the UGA campus.

"Bring some sort of portable shade cover," he said. "It's a tough sun, no doubt. It'll bubble you up. It'll take the skin right off you."

But the city is much easier to navigate than Athens or Atlanta, features great natural beauty and has some good golf courses.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 062208

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My wife got us tickets for this game. I can't wait to go. I spoke to the asu ticket office after she bought the tickets (by the way they aren't all in the nose bleeds, for 99 bucks we got some good tickets) and they said "we expect more than 25k uga fans being there based on our ticket sales. UGA fans are calling up and buying thousands of tickets." He said that the 25k could be underestimating the #s. It will be a great game to go to. We will be having some fun in vegas and playing some golf.

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