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Jaguars fans talk about blackout effects on students

Tickets to games too expensive, students turn to alternative ways for sports coverage

When Phillip Schwartz, a life-long Jacksonville Jaguars fan, talks about the team, he doesn’t use the word “they,” he uses “we.”

Despite a blacked-out season, poor performances and a depleting fan base, the UNF sports management junior said he’s sticking by his team. Along with the few remaining dedicated fans, Schwartz will always be found listening to radio coverage or in the stands on game days, and the Jacksonville Jaguars staff members are doing what they can to promote the team and end the long stream of blackouts.

Blackouts shade professional games

All over the NFL, teams struggle with blackouts. Even teams that are doing well this season like the San Diego Chargers, deal with this problem given the general economy, Schwartz said.

“It’s happening all over the league,“ Schwartz said. “We just get a lot of news coverage because every home game has been blacked out. We are kind of the whipping boy and laughing stock of the NFL, but if you look at it, it’s bound to happen to anyone.”

In addition to a struggling local economy, the Jacksonville Jaguars has their stadium putting more pressure on an already problematic situation. Jacksonville has the third or fourth largest stadium in the NFL, Schwartz. It seats nearly 80,000 people, which is the size of a college football stadium. Normally college stadiums are bigger because tickets are less expensive, and yet they usually seat a maximum of 86,000 people.

“You could see the writing on the wall before the season even started,” Schwartz said. “The stadium is way too big, the team has underperformed and our economy is struggling. All these things equate to a blackout.”

Some think drafting Tim Tebow when he goes to the NFL would help the Jaguars, but Schwartz said showing consistency, winning more games and building fan excitement is the real recipe for getting rid of the blackouts.

Football fan support leans toward college

The Jacksonville Jaguars not only have to compete for fans with other teams in their league, but they also have to worry about college football teams in the area.

“It’s unfortunate for the Jaguars that Jacksonville is such is such a college town,” said Chris Anderson, a UNF journalism junior. “College towns are difficult for the NFL because there is so much more energy put into college sports.”

The annual NCAA Florida vs. Georgia game, for example, packs Jacksonville Municipal Stadium every year, but tickets for Jaguars games are always available.

“Most people dog the Jaguars, and they haven’t been playing that bad,” Schwartz said. “The problem is that the fan base is very fickle.”

There is a segment of Jaguars fans who grew up watching them play and continue to attend games. However, there are also those fans who have lost interest throughout the hardships.

“We have a very spoiled fan base because one year after existence, we were in the playoffs,” Schwartz said. “The expectations have been high ever since, but not much has changed. Two years ago we were playing the undefeated Patriots, and we almost won. Next year, I think this team will contend for the playoffs. If we stay on this path, we are going to be fine, but we need fans to support us.”

Media outlets air games

If a Jaguar game is blacked out, some fans will make an extra effort to buy tickets, but for some, spending that kind of money is not an option.

“I do have tickets to three games, so I do my part,” Schwartz. “I would feel guilty if I didn’t buy some sort of tickets. For the games I can’t go to, I’ll always find some way to listen to the radio.”

There are select ways of finding coverage of the games when they’re not televised, such as updates through Twitter, Facebook and text messages. Fans can also listen to play-by-plays online and through the radio.

“Twitter is a really great tool the Jaguars have been utilizing,” Anderson said. “It works well because it’s been permeating through the business community. A lot of companies are starting to use it.”

For real time coverage, fans can listen to the radio station WOKV on AM 690. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars are emphasizing their partnership with satellite radio.

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    PeteNov 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    You know what really grinds my gears? So-called Jaguars fans. Anyone who claims to call themselves a fan of the Jaguars in Jacksonville should quit with the excuses. I am completely sympathetic to those who really do have financial hardships during this rough economy, but the ticket problem has plagued us as early as 1999, perhaps their best season where the Jags went 14-2 and to the AFC Championship game. Yes, the stadium was built to hold around 80,000 seats, but the size was reduced to 60,000 to fit the market size by covering seats. For a city population of more than 800,000, it is embarrassing that we can not fill a 60,000 seat stadium. People talk about the high prices, but we have the second lowest price in the league. The Jaguars and Wayne Weaver have been very generous and does what NO OTHER TEAM offers: sell half-packs and even an option where you get to pick which games you want to attend. They don’t sell PSL’s (Personal Seat Licenses) where you have to buy the right to buy a seat before you can even buy a ticket, a dirty scheme that other teams employ to increase their revenue. Heck, Wayne Weaver even gave away tickets during the Winn-Dixie promotion and nobody wanted them and for years bought up the rest of the unsold tickets to broadcast games on TV in hopes of generating the fan base. Instead, what he got were fans who took him for granted to get the game on air and were content to lie on their couch to watch the game instead of buying a ticket.

    The big excuse I hear often is it’s hard to go to Jags games because this is traditionally a “college football” town. Right… People point to the sold-out record of the Gators in “The Swamp” but the truth is Florida has fans all around Florida that come to the games, not even mentioning the student body. The Jaguars, on the other hand, only have Jacksonville and the surrounding areas to draw from, this is our team. When we had the ACC Championship game, the stadium was almost empty. Even if this were a college football town, instead of having to choose between the two, why can’t we have both? A perfect example is Tennessee. Before the Titans (nee Oilers) came along, that was Volunteer country. Most critics believed that pro football wouldn’t survive there. But the Titans are thriving and despite a previous winless record this year, this past Sunday the hapless Titans still drew a reputable crowd and most if not all the tickets were sold. In contrast, Jacksonville was touted to be a football town ready to own an NFL franchise but is now the laughing stock of the League and the country. Wayne Weaver and the Jaguars franchise can’t keep running in the red every year and you know what that means. You want to know how the Jaguars can stay in Jacksonville? Buy a ticket.