Tickets still available for Vandy’s season opener

Selling tickets should be easy for a Southeastern Conference

team coming off a 9-4 season, especially for the opening game

against Mississippi.

Not so at Vanderbilt where tickets remained available Monday for

Thursday night’s season opener.

Coach James Franklin has been pushing fans to step up for months

using Twitter as his platform, a countdown that has been in daily

use with the opener designated as ”Operation Blackout.” Yet the

coach planned to get an update Monday night on where ticket sales

stand.

”It’s very important, national television, that we sell the

stadium out, that everybody’s wearing black,” Franklin said

Monday. ”I feel like we’re making progress there. … I think

we’re going to sell out the game, and I expect us to sell out the

game.”

Considering how last season went for the Commodores, selling

tickets didn’t appear to be an issue.

Vanderbilt won its final seven games, including the Music City

Bowl, for its best season since 1915 and takes the SEC’s longest

winning streak into this opener. The Commodores also have the SEC’s

smallest stadium to fill with a capacity of 40,350. They did just

that three times last season, reaching 93.8 percent of capacity for

the season.

Yet, Franklin has been Vanderbilt’s biggest salesman pushing

ticket sales and fan creativity to make sure fans are decked out in

black Thursday night. He said he doesn’t wake up thinking what his

message will be each day on Twitter but is happy to tweet away when

he sees something interesting all in hopes of promoting the

Commodores.

”You guys know how passionate I am about building this program

and building this fan base and tradition,” Franklin said. ”The

next step for us is to sell out every single game and sell it out,

black it out. That’s all we’ve been talking about over and over and

over again.”

Franklin seems to be fighting history still with a fan base worn

down by decades of losing. Franklin is 15-11 in his first two

seasons with two straight bowl berths, but he said last week he

understands this program didn’t get into this position

overnight.

Some fans have called into local radio stations over the past

week complaining about higher ticket prices or increased donation

fees to Vanderbilt’s booster Commodore Club. Others point out

Vanderbilt competes with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in a city with

plenty of options.

”I think we’ve earned the right for people to get excited,”

Franklin said last week. ”You can let go some of that scarring and

some of that stuff in the past waiting for something bad to happen.

Let’s be excited and let’s be fans and be fanatic.”

The Commodores will have help filling up the stadium Thursday

night. Ole Miss spokesman Kyle Campbell said the school sold its

allotment of 7,000 tickets, and Rebels’ fans are excited about a

program that went 7-6 in coach Hugh Freeze’s inaugural season.

”I’d be extremely disappointed if Ole Miss didn’t turn out very

strong in Nashville,” Freeze said Monday. ”I know our folks will

show up.”

Vanderbilt has won four of the past five in this series,

including 27-26 last year in Oxford when the Commodores never led

until 52 seconds were left.

Senior receiver Jordan Matthews said it doesn’t matter if it’s

just one person in the stands Thursday night or if the stadium is

filled to the rim. Fifth-year senior defensive end Walker May said

he sees the biggest buzz yet on campus for this game.

”We’re not worried about that,” May said. ”The fans are going

to come, and our students are going to come. And they’re going to

come support us.”

AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Mississippi contributed to this

report.

Online:

AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker