By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — At the University of Virginia, season tickets went on sale Monday for the coming football season.
Scott Stadium seats 61,500, and Mike London would love to see you there this fall. Virginia’s second-year coach knows that strong fan support will increase his team’s home-field advantage and, equally important, make his program more attractive to prospective recruits.
“It makes a big difference,” London said Monday morning.
The season-ticket price in all lower-level sections and the upper-level sideline sections is unchanged from 2010 — $270. UVa also has several new season-ticket options, including a $99 Young Alumni deal for fans who graduated from UVa in 2007, ’08, ’09 or ’10 or will graduate this year.
The Wahoos will play seven home games this season: Sept. 3 vs. William and Mary, Sept. 24 vs. Southern Mississippi, Oct. 1 vs. Idaho, Oct. 15 vs. Georgia Tech, Oct. 22 vs. NC State, Nov. 12 vs. Duke, and Nov. 26 vs. Virginia Tech.
London can remember when opposing teams routinely struggled at Scott Stadium, in part because they encountered large, loud crowds.
Before taking over as head coach in December 2009, London had two stints as an assistant at UVa. He was on Al Groh’s staff in 2006, when UVa sold 39,876 season tickets, still a school record, and in ’07, when UVa sold 39,532.
Since then, however, season-ticket sales have dipped sharply: to 35,538 in 2008, to 30,507 in 2009, and to 27,585 last year.
The ‘Hoos averaged only 45,510 at home games last season, when they went 4-8. But UVa has added a highly regarded recruiting class for 2011, and London and his staff and his players have spent countless hours in the Charlottesville area and, in some cases, around the state promoting the program.
“I spend time going to basketball games and baseball games and things like that,” London said. “I want to go and support our teams, and I would hope that the fans and people out there would do the same thing with the football program.”
A year ago, the Cavaliers held one of their spring practices in Norfolk. They practiced in Hampton on Saturday and will practice in Alexandria this weekend.
“Hopefully we’ve made inroads into the community by traveling around and doing different things, reaching out to coaches, having a broad base of recruits that have now got interest in us,” London said.
“We’d love to have our students out there [at Scott Stadium]. We’d love to have fans who used to have season tickets and for whatever reason didn’t renew them, to get them back. To get more of the community and people involved with us.”
In the past five seasons, the Cavaliers have finished with a winning record only once — in 2007, when they went 9-4 and played in the Gator Bowl.
“People want to see a product that’s improving, and I think we’ll be an improved team [this fall],” London said. “People like to be around winners, and that’s the goal and that’s the aim: to build a program that’s going to be at an upper level.”
To build such a program requires talent, and when “recruits come in and they look at our stadium and see our fans in there and see how the place looks, it makes a significant difference in how they think about where they can see themselves playing,” London said.
For more information or to purchase season tickets, fans may call the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 542-8821. They can also stop by the ticket office, which is in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit VirginiaSports.com.