"These players don't need everybody to believe in them, but they damn sure need somebody to," Phillips said. "And I expect you, the Big Blue Nation, to get behind this football team. Why? Because we are UK. Simply said, We are UK."
His message came a day after the news that season ticket sales for the 2012 season were down from the 2011 total. Over three weeks later and with nearly three more before UK opens its home slate against Kent State, updated ticket sales show progress, but that work is still ahead answering Phillips' call.
Since the last ticket sales figures were released on July 26, 1,668 combined public and student season tickets have been sold, representing a 4.7-percent increase. The latest publicly released ticket sales through Aug. 16 show that UK has now sold 37,154 season tickets for 2012 - 34,707 to the public and 2,447 to students. Additional tickets have been sold over the five days since these totals were tabulated.
**Season ticket packages for all seven home games are still available. The cost is $272 or $237 per seat. Visit www.UKathletics.com/tickets for a season information packet and to check seat locations.**
With the latest figures, season ticket sales in 2012 are down 20.8 percent from 2011 and 32.5 percent from 2009. Sales to the public are down just 15.4 percent, while student tickets - which cost just $35 for the entire season - are down more.
The athletic department has relied on the passion of fans and a creative marketing and ticket office approach to boost sales. Headlining that effort has been the offering of football mini-packs, which allow fans to select from three- and four-game ticketing plans. In total, 559 mini-packs have been purchased since they went on sale on July 20. The above-listed season ticket sales totals do not include mini-packs.
**Mini-pack sales are ongoing. Fans are given the opportunity to choose from conference and non-conference games. All seats are located in lower-level end zones. The Quarterback 4-Game Pack costs $150 and the Touchdown 3-Game costs $115. Tickets can be purchased online at www.UKathletics.com/tickets, by calling 800-928-2287 or In person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office**
Season ticket sales declined leading up to both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, even though UK's school-record bowl streak was extended in each of the preceding seasons.
Schools throughout the country are facing the same changing times in ticket sales. UK's drop in season ticket sales coincides with the economic downturn that began throughout the United States in 2008 and is hardly an anomaly compared to schools around the NCAA. Average attendance for all Division I games in 2011 was at its lowest point since 2005.
Moreover, fans are more and more often electing to cheer on their teams from the comfort of their own living rooms due to the proliferation of television coverage and high-definition broadcasts. Beginning in 2009, every Southeastern Conference football game has been shown live with the conference's lucrative television contracts.
This new reality in the market is reflected in the decreasing ticket prices across the SEC. Nine of 12 the league's schools have lowered the minimum cost per game for the public to purchase season tickets, according to a survey by the Birmingham News. In an era of unprecedented on-field dominance by the conference, even championship-winning programs like Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida have lower minimum ticket prices compared with the 2008 season, but UK's per-game ticket prices to the public remain the second-lowest in the SEC.
Once again, Kentucky will host some of the nation's best teams as part of an always-challenging SEC slate. Fans will be treated to high-level football, but that's not the biggest reason for them to come out to Commonwealth Stadium.
"These players come to UK because of you, that's what I will tell you, the fans," Phillips said. "They come to UK because of you. We're out there selling you."