Sunday is first test of Bucs' ticket plan to keep out opponents' fans

Buccaneers fans celebrate a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams last season at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Buccaneers fans celebrate a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams last season at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Published Sept. 16, 2017

TAMPA — Bucs coach Dirk Koetter's priority and focus will always be on improving the product on the field, but Sunday he'll also get an update on a personal off-field pet peeve: opposing fans making their presence felt at Raymond James Stadium.

"I've never wavered on that: I want to see all Bucs in the lower bowl," Koetter said Friday, wrapping up preparations for Sunday's season opener at home against the Bears. "A perfect day for me is going to be all Bucs jerseys in the lower bowl and the Bucs winning by one or more."

Koetter voiced his displeasure with the number of fans cheering against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium last season, noting that his offense at times even had to go to a silent count during home games because of the noise. He wasn't the only one in the organization unhappy, and the team took action in the offseason.

The Bucs identified season ticket holders who they said were ticket resellers to opponents' fans and notified them that they could not renew their tickets for this season. It is not known how many lost their tickets. Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said in announcing the plan in April that the number affected was "limited."

In some instances, Bucs fans who had held the same seats for decades were forced out because they simply couldn't attend all the home games in the past. The Bucs' website has a link to the league's NFL Ticket Exchange site, which would seem to endorse fans buying and selling tickets as they want. The Bucs also evaluated some individual cases and made exceptions when they believed circumstances warranted it.

A new ticketing policy this year — intended with security in mind — will make it harder for people to resell individual game tickets without using the NFL Ticket Exchange, which also allows teams to track how often tickets are resold. All individual tickets sold for home games were issued exclusively for mobile devices, so there is no printed ticket to get into the stadium.

The Bucs' first three home games — against the Bears, Giants and Patriots — are against popular teams from the north who have established national fan bases, setting up the potential for more opposing fans in the stands. In particular, the Patriots haven't played a game in Tampa since 1997, a rare thing in the current NFL model, in which teams visit every opponent at least once every eight years.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, with some areas of Tampa Bay still without power and other services, and other residents busy trying to get back to normal, Sunday's game could have a smaller crowd than last year's Bucs-Bears matchup at Raymond James Stadium, which drew an announced crowd of 62,898, the Bucs' second-biggest home crowd of 2016.

Tickets for Sunday are selling below face value on the secondary market — as low as $38 on — but the next two home games remain hot tickets. The cheapest Bucs-Giants seats were drawing $108 online, and tickets for the Bucs-Patriots game were starting at $169.

The best way for the Bucs to maximize their fans' presence in the stands is to get back to being successful. From 2012-16, Tampa Bay went 13-27 at home. The Jaguars are the only team with a worse home record in that time, 11-29.

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The Bucs have won their past four games at Raymond James Stadium, however, so with more of that, Koetter can have a direct impact on opposing fans being a continued loud presence at their home field.

Contact Greg Auman at and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.