As of late, UK athletics has been selling student tickets to the general public. This is my third year at UK and the first time I can recall this happening, all in attempt to fill the student section. After thinking about this and talking with some fellow students about why we aren’t buying tickets, I came to the conclusion that UK students are very spoiled. I remember one of the most exciting parts about coming to UK for me was the fact that I could attend men’s basketball games for $5, buy season football tickets for $5 a game and attend any other sporting event for free- a dream come true for a lifetime Cat fan. The fact that we aren’t selling tickets baffles me, here’s why.
In regards to football, my freshman year we went 5-7, this is not IDEAL, but it definitely wasn’t Kentucky’s lowest point. The student section was never sold out, but it did fill (although most left at halftime). This wasn’t too shocking to me; Kentucky is not a football school by any standard. Last year when we went 2-10 I REALLY knew why we weren’t filling the student section, that season was one of the most dismal I can recall, but me being my eternal-optimist self had the attitude that without fan support nothing will change and people should stick with their team through thick and thin (no matter if it was 2-10 thin). This year’s student section baffles me a little more than previous years, however. When student tickets went on sale, they sold a large quantity fairly quick. This was due in large part to the excitement over Stoops and the new staff, as to be expected. The student section actually sold out for the WKU game in Nashville and those tickets for students ran around $25 I believe. This year the section has been more full than last year for sure, but people continue to leave early. I also don’t understand with the amount of tickets BOUGHT, why people choose not to use them. I was asking why people leave early and one student told me that if we were losing badly, people left because it was a blow out. If the weather conditions were not optimal, they left because they were uncomfortable (which there has only been ONE chilly game this season). I was at Alabama State in the student section when we were winning by a large margin and people left because that too, was a blow out and they were bored.
That’s right, they leave if we lose, or if we’re winning by “too much”.
To me, that is sad, especially for an SEC school. But again, we’re not a football school so it doesn’t surprise me necessarily.
Now on to basketball. I grew up with the mentality that Rupp Arena was a church and our coaches were some sort of God-sent angel that blessed you with crops of top rated players and you pray for a win every game. Who knows, maybe that is just me. Regardless, Rupp Arena is a special place- not just in Kentucky, but to the world of college basketball. The amount of premier athletes and world-class coaches that have played and coached in that building is unprecedented. The history that is in there, the tradition and the energy is something that can’t be matched through a television set. People cherish the opportunity to attend a UK game of any kind, but especially a home game.
I’ll never forget my first home game. It was UK versus Auburn in Calipari’s first year at Kentucky. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were like heroes and Patrick Patterson was probably my favorite player at the time (and is still high on the list). I sat incredibly close to the ceiling (to the point where you pass row Z in a 200 level seat and the letters turn into AA, BB…) in the corner, not even close to the best view; but it didn’t matter; I was THRILLED to be there. I remember looking down at the eRUPPtion Zone and thinking, “Man, I can’t wait for that”, I think I actually made that comment to my mom.
When I got to UK, naturally the first thing I did was buy season football tickets. I attended every single home game (and still do) including the WKU game in Nashville. When basketball distributions and lotteries rolled around, I made it a point to get there early to get the best seats possible. I remember being in front of the Joe Craft ticket office at 5 AM to get left over UNC tickets (I was LAST row of Rupp, by the way). It didn’t matter that I was in the last row, I was in the building and I was happy about it.
The UNC game my freshman year is a perfect example of the point I am trying to make. For those who need a refresher, this game was at Rupp on December 3, 2011. Kentucky was ranked #1 and UNC was #5. UK was 7-0, UNC was 6-1. Kentucky won 73-72 thanks to Anthony Davis blocking a last second shot for the win. I’m not even sure how to explain the energy in that building that day to you, but I can tell you it was definitely not something you get through a TV set. While every game isn’t quite that dramatic, every game is a unique experience.
The way the student ticket process works (I get asked this a lot) isn’t TOO complicated. For small games (exhibitions and games like UT-Arlington and NKU) are distributions rather than lotteries. We get an email telling us which games are on sale, they’re usually grouped in 3 or 4 games per distribution, and when they go on sale. Students get them a day or two before the public. All you have to do is go to Joe Craft (I get there before it opens to ensure good seats but that’s optional), walk in and show your student ID and tell them where you want to sit and which games you want or if you want them all, and pay- simple as that. We usually have around 3 distributions per season. There are 3 student sections, we have a section of lower level seats mixed in with the public, a section in the upper mixed in with the public and the infamous eRUPPtion Zone which is general admission and standing space only. The lotteries get a little trickier; we receive an email with a unique login to a UK Ticketmaster site. From there, you create a group with a name and password. You enter the lottery with a group of up to 4 people, so you are ensured to have seats with someone you know so you share the group login info with whomever you want to sit with. After the lottery deadline passes, about a day later you receive another email letting you know if you won or lost. If you won, it gives you a date and time for the lottery. You are guaranteed to be in the building if you win. The lotteries are held in the gym at Memorial Coliseum and doors open an hour prior to it starting. You have an hour to come with whoever else won and receive a number card. You get the same number as the people you won with and the numbers are in groups of 100 I believe. If you make it to Memorial, you have seats, its just determining where. When the lottery starts, they draw numbers at random so the first group goes to get their tickets first. They post all the group orders so you know about how long you’ll have to wait- I’ve been there where it ends in an hour and I’ve been there until 1 or 2 AM before, it just depends. The e-zone and lower levels go first and the last groups get upper seats. These tickets are also distributed in groups of 3 or 4 and it’s the same process of showing an ID and paying only they require cash for lotteries to expedite the process. You also have to present your number card to get in line for purchase. You and your group go to the window together, tell them how many games, how many of you there are and which section (upper or lower) and you pay- simple as that. We usually have 4-5 lotteries per season. Football you can walk in and buy them, buy them online or at the game and they are available game by game or as a season package. Any other UK sporting event is free with an ID at the game.
In defense for the students not filling the eRUPPtion Zone, I prefer lower level followed by upper level with the e-zone being my last choice for tickets. I don’t really like cramming in and standing for 2 hours or more and usually I have class prior to games so I can’t camp outside Rupp to be in the front (plus its usually cold) and so I usually have trouble seeing the game. I do it once a season at least and several times my freshman year because I think its part of the UK student experience and it is fun, just not optimal for viewing the game.
I do not, however understand why students are not sitting in our sections and allowing these tickets to be sold to the public around $40 each. If adults and children are willing to stand in the e-zone and sit in our seats I don’t know why we aren’t. Freshman year we had no problem filling for each game. Last season, the e-zone got smaller as the season progressed and the top wasn’t always completely full. I think its pathetic even though our season didn’t go as well as we hoped, but at least I knew the reasoning behind it.
This season it is beyond me as to why people are not coming to games. We have an incredibly talented team that is a ton of fun to watch and even though we aren’t #1 anymore, 4 isn’t anything to be complaining about. I was talking to friend of mine who is also a student here and she said she thinks its because people know we will win the small games, so what’s the point? While it’s true, I did assume we would beat teams like Transy, NKU and UT-Arlington, it’s like a said freshman year- this team is a championship caliber team, they will make history and become productive NBA players, I want every chance I can to watch them make history. I also want to get my full student experience, at what other point in your life will you have a chance to see nearly every UK home game for four years for five dollars? I’ll wait on that response.
I get as a basketball school full of basketball fans we live for those close, nail biter, rival games, but part of being a fan is being a fan EVERY game, not just the thrillers. So if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, let’s pack Rupp and Commonwealth and support these Wildcats. Rupp is a special place and both programs are headed towards big things that I bet you won’t regret being a part of.