COLUMBIA -- Football season ticket sales figures are up a bit from a year ago at South Carolina, and it's not exactly difficult to figure out the reason.
Win games, sell tickets: That's an understandable formula when it comes to the world of marketing and sales in the business of college football.
The Gamecocks went to the SEC championship game for the first time a year ago, winning the Eastern Division. With a dozen or so key players returning, they have just as good of a shot as any other team in the East to return to Atlanta.
Fans sense that, too. They had purchased 46,061 season ticket packets through July 15 -- up from the total of 45,985 purchased in 2010.
"Folks need tangible evidence," said Marcy Girton, USC's deputy director of athletics. "That's what the success has provided us."
Girton and the sales staff prepared in early 2010 for a marketing campaign to push season ticket sales. But, for some reason, they held off for a year.
After the team's nine-win season and berth in the SEC title game, they're glad they did.
If you've driven around the state or been on the Internet in the past six months, you've likely seen advertisements for tickets. Preseason All-SEC players Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore are lighting up dozens of digital billboards and website banners.
A series of short videos on the school's website, including
clips of Jeffery and Lattimore running and working out, were also part of the increased promotions.
"It helps to have recognizable players," Girton said, adding that it's perfectly permissible by the NCAA's rules for players to be part of university initiatives. "We've had players like that before, sure, but this is a strong contingent right now."
Girton said the university is nearing 1,000 new season ticket buyers -- a truer measure of growth than even the total. Some, she said, are people who have come back after a price hike in 2009. More, though, are fans who purchased smaller, three-game packets in 2010. They wanted more.
More confidence in the economy has also helped, Girton said.
"It's either improved or people have learned how to live in it," she said.
The maximum number of season tickets available is 55,000. Girton said the eight dedicated ticket interns -- a new feature in 2011 -- will be on call until the season begins.
South Carolina opens the season Sept. 3 in Charlotte against East Carolina, but the Gamecocks will not play at home for the first time until Sept. 17, when Navy comes to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Incoming freshman linebacker Edward Muldrow was arrested in Five Points last week and charged with public drunkenness, possession of alcohol by a minor and littering, according to published reports.
Muldrow, from Atlanta, will be suspended from the team, pending a legal review. The South Gwinnett product was also arrested in November, for possession of drugs and driving with an expired tag and suspended license.