When it comes to putting people in the seats of Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena, the University of Tennessee athletic department won't be relying on just its reputation anymore.
UT recently signed with IMG College Ticket Solutions to amp up its ticket sales for the school's high-revenue sports. The school's new partner is a unit of IMG Worldwide, a sports and entertainment agency in which the Vols are already partnered with for corporate sales through the Vol Network. IMG also holds the athletic department's licensing rights through the Collegiate Licensing Company.
Instead of simply taking ticket orders, the Vols will now be actively selling tickets for games inside the football stadium and basketball arena with a trained staff of eight to 12 new workers. A general manager will also be hired to supervise the group.
"When you look at the landscape of ticket sales, it's really changed," said Chris Fuller, senior associate athletic director for external operations at UT. "The secondary market place has changed the whole dynamic."
For an annual cost of $450,000, IMG will hire and compensate the new staff, which will be housed inside the current UT ticket headquarters at the Tennessee Fund offices. The salesmen will receive a conservative base salary, but can also qualify for numerous incentives based on commission, Fuller said.
"As much as we want to believe the sale is altruistic, it's motivated by financial interest," said Fuller, who previously worked with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. "If you want to really perform as a sales organization, you have to provide incentives."
The seven people currently working in the ticket office won't be out of a job, Fuller said. There is plenty to do "logistics-wise" because the Vols have two of the largest venues in the country for college football and basketball.
The Vols have seen ticket sales decline for football over the years, but still rank near the top among all college programs. Last year, three of the Vols' seven home games were "hard" sellouts at Neyland Stadium, which seats 102,455. In the past, UT would typically have five or more.
"Our struggle compared to most of our brethren, we're in pretty good shape," Fuller said. "This is more of a move so we protect ourselves for the future. Live attendance at sports events is really going to change over the next 15 years."
UT joins Duke and San Jose State as schools to sign up with IMG College Ticket Solutions just this month.
"The challenge for us," Fuller said, "is making sure we train these people effectively."
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327.