Aug 29, 2013
Athletics director Jay Jacobs talks to reporters Thursday in his office (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Jay Jacobs, heading into his ninth football season as Auburn's athletics director, will watch with a lot of excitement and some apprehension Saturday night as the Gus Malzahn era begins against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Jacobs introduced Malzahn as Auburn's head coach on Dec. 4. He said Thursday he has been impressed every day since.
"I couldn't be more pleased with Gus and our coaching staff over the last 8 ½ months," said Jacobs, who met with reporters in his office. "He's a fierce competitor and tireless worker. It's amazing to me, not only his bright mind but his attention to detail. The staff he has brought together, I'm excited about.
"There are so few days that I leave here and he's not still here and so few mornings I get here and he's not already here. I don't know what it's going to be like out there on Saturday, but I know we'll compete and it will be a fun brand of football."
Jacobs, who suffered along with Auburn fans through last season's 3-9 record, said he sees something different about Auburn football players.
"Being around the team, they have a different look in their eyes than they've had in a long time," Jacobs said. "They are all excited. They seem to have confidence going into Saturday's game. I'm certainly concerned about our defense, guys getting hurt and the lack of depth. I'm excited about the way guys have been working, their enthusiasm and things like that."
Jacobs touched on a wide variety of topics during a question and answer session that lasted almost 40 minutes.
Gameday experience at Jordan-Hare
With early games likely to be played in hot weather, even at night, making water available is a priority. A 16-ounce bottle of water will be available for $2 to fans entering the stadium. Fans will also be allowed to bring an empty water container and fill it for free at 20 filling stations scattered throughout the stadium.
"People can go up to a big orange cooler and fill up with water," Jacobs said. "We'll have cups available, but you can also have your bottle there. We are just trying to enhance the gameday experience and make sure people can stay hydrated."
The additions of new tailgating spaces and 2,000 parking places were announced previously. Jacobs said Thursday that Domino's Pizza, Chick-fil-A and Mama Goldberg's subs will be available in the concession stands.
Jacobs also said Verizon has upgraded Wi-Fi in the stadium and that AT&T has partnered with Verizon to improve services for its customers. The price, he said, has been cut almost in half.
"It's not where it needs to be, but also we reduced the price of that about $3, almost cut it in half," Jacobs said. "As a league, we have a game day committee in the SEC. One thing that keeps coming up is being able to connect."
Fans needing extra time to get to their seats will be allowed into the stadium 2 ½ hours before the game, 30 minutes before the gates open to all.
"We probably won't be up and running with full-blown concessions, but it's just to give those patrons that need it a little bit more time climbing the steps or getting on the elevator," Jacobs said.
Those fans can enter through the elevator lobby on the east side or the media entrance on the west side.
Scannable tickets will be used at Jordan-Hare for the first time. There is a web site where fans can swap or email tickets to others. For more on that, follow the link for Charles Goldberg's story. http://www.auburntigers.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/082913aah.html
"We've spent about $170 million since 2005 on all our facilities," Jacobs said. "Certainly, (Auburn Arena) is a big part of that. We spent $20 million just on the indoor facility and the renovations we made here in this building. Certainly, (there is) what we've done with our tennis facility, a joint venture with the city of Auburn; our soccer and track facility, we spent about $6 million to build that and our golf teaching facility."
Jacobs said he spent the summer on a "listening tour," hearing what mattered most to Auburn supporters.
"The most important thing is winning, and that's what we are here to do," Jacobs said. "We are going to do it within the rules, but most of our fans don't realize what we've done from a facilities standpoint and the upgrades we've made.
"I think the new residence hall the university built is a game-changer for us. It was interesting to be there about three weeks and talk to the signees and their parents. (The parents) talked about `can we get a room over here?' I think it will bring back that camaraderie that so many of us have been missing."
Jacobs also pointed to the wellness kitchen that will open next August. It will be an all-you-care-to-eat restaurant for Auburn athletes. It will also be available to other students.
Impact of rising costs, television on attendance
"I'm on a committee that has a quarterly meeting with ESPN, one of two AD's," Jacobs said. "That came up. The question was asked if it matters to ESPN. It certainly does. They want to show games with full stadiums. It's something we talk about all the time. What can we do to enhance the gameday experience and get people to campus? Having the game on campus with a sold out crowd is what college football is all about."
Jacobs said he keeps those issues in mind in trying to enhance the experience for those who come to campus.
"That's one reason we didn't increase our ticket prices the last two years," Jacobs said. "We want people coming here. That's why we have to keep adding parking places. We're not where we need to be. That's why we are having a movie Friday night at the baseball field, why we are having a lunch Friday with Gus, why we opened up our locker room."
Season ticket sales
Auburn's season ticket sales are down some 4.7 percent, Jacobs said, but sales of premium seats are at an all-time high. The tickets that have not sold, he said, are those in the lower levels of the end zones.
"You can certainly understand why that would be," Jacobs said. "Why would you want to pay the TUF and price of the ticket when you know you can go out there and get them on the street? Plus, Washington State, becasue of distance, isn't bringing many people, so we have extra tickets for this game. We certainly suspect, if we are successful on the field Saturday we will probably end up selling out."
On future stadium enhancement, enlargement
Jacobs said that stadium enlargement won't happen until the business model says it should.
"Since 2004, we've spent $40 million over there," Jacobs said. "This year we completely renovated the East club level. We have a master plan for our stadium. When our business model matches up where we are selling out all our TUF seats, the next thing for us to do is add some premium seating in one of the end zones. We would add it with a structure where you would have club level and suites, but have the structure so you could add an upper deck at a later time.
"In the meantime, we keep pouring money into making sure people are coming and enjoying the experience. That's a daily work. We are going to be good stewards of our finances. We're not going to flood the market with tickets."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: