While a fanpost has already noted General Admission ticket holders were turned away from the Erwin Center due to "no more room", I thought there were several additional mistakes or blunders made by UT Athletics during the game. The largest crowd of the season in regards to student turnout was marred--in my opinion--by a handful of errors.
This post will largely revolve around student-related issues. As I think all criticism should be constructive, I'll highlight these areas of concern and outline some proposed solutions after the jump...
"RESERVED" Seats for Recruits
Something that has been noted among BON commentators was the presence of high-profile recruits at the basketball game. The rumor outside the Erwin Center was that UT Athletics was reserving seats inside the O-Zone for certain recruits. When we got into the arena 90 minutes before tip (Stampede privilege, lawyas), this rumor was substantiated by the presence of twenty-plus "reserved seats" at the front of--or, at least, in front of--the South O-Zone. These reserved sections were on both sides of the basket. Someone else will have to speak over if they were traditional O-Zone seats or were temporary seats added for the occasion.
In firing some BON authors a quick e-mail from my phone, I wasn't sure exactly how to feel about this tactic. If putting recruits right in front of premium student seats helps UT Athletics, then I'm all for it--with some caveats. Unfortunately, these caveats came to fruition and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
The seats remained "RESERVED" until after tip-off, when some recruits filtered into the reserved seats east of the basket. I thought this was fine, but I didn't appreciate seeing a "Texas Tech" sweatshirt at the front of the O-Zone. Each of these visitors remained seated the entire game and there was no burnt orange to be seen. But at least these seats were filled up. The reserved seats to the west of the basket (closest to the UT Bench) remained unused until there were 5 minutes left in the first half. At this point, some UT Athletics/Erwin Center officials removed the labels and allowed students to filter down into these seats.
Verdict: While I have no problem with the tactic, I thought the entire situation was poorly handled. At a minimum, the unused reserved seats should have become accessible to students when it became obvious they weren't being used. Other suggestions would have been to give each recruit a UT t-shirt to wear during the game (take it back afterwards if there are compliance or "gift" issues), encouraged them to follow the O-Zone rituals, or even moved them to a different section of seats where their inactivity might have been less noticeable.
I wont get into the additional issue of Stampede members paying $75 (on top of having to get an LASP), then having the best seats on the South Side being "Reserved", but it was definitely a topic of conversation among students at the game.
The Pitiful Performance of the ________
I really dont like to bag on student or spirit groups on campus. I really dont. Having run one myself, in addition to being an ROTC Cadet, I've made a lot of leadership mistakes along the way.
But when you only show up for the 2-3 highest profile basketball games each year, and are given privileged front-row seats whenever you do, then I have certain expectations. And these expectations include not yelling at the other bench while we are shooting free throws, not asking when the cheerleaders got new uniforms (Answer: the first game this season), not waving your hands the wrong way during an opponent's free throws, actually jumping up-and-down instead of standing still and merely shaking your hands at the other team, and avoid conducting a "Texas Fight" chant for the TV cameras while we have the basketball. And, while some of you may quibble with me on this one, I dont appreciate any cheer involving the word "****" when there are children in the adjacent section.
Verdict: I dont have a problem with the _________ getting special treatment at basketball games. To an extent, they are synonymous with UT Student support for the Athletic Program and collectively attend an outstanding variety and assortment of games. I just wish UT Athletics would make them earn these front-row privileges for basketball games. Red Carpet treatment should come with certain expectations, and, as someone who has attended a kazillion home games as a student, I wish this group could get their act together for more than just the marquee games each season.
Restrictions on the Rewards System
We've previously discussed the "Rewards System" both here and here. While scanning "points" for the Rewards System used to be available before the game, this has been scrapped. Now, the only way to access the scanning booth is to wait until after the game and stand in line. From what I understand, there was concerns over students coming to Women's Basketball games and leaving shortly thereafter, thereby accruing points they didnt "earn." This was especially competitive during the Fall Semester, as the top 200 LASP attendees were grandfathered into the Stampede groups, without having to pay the $75 fee and still getting the Rewards Points for every game attended.
And therein lies the problem. With the scanner only available after the game, all the current Stampede members (including the new LASP additions) have to stand in a single line. By the time I arrived, there was a 20 minute line with over a hundred students to get one point added to my score. As I had already been at the arena for over 5 hours and was running late to another engagement, I gave my Rewards card and game ticket to a friend to get scanned. Another friend--who had to drive back to Houston after the game--had been at the arena for over nine hours and also gave his Rewards card and game ticket to the same person. When he got to the front of the line (after 20 minutes), they wouldnt scan our cards and said we should have waited.
Verdict: Spending nine hours at the Erwin Center should be enough to get a single point added to the Rewards System. There is absolutely no reason to prevent people from scanning their cards before any Men's game. The abuse of women's games stemmed from the ridiculous double-points given for every women's game. An even simpler solution would include using multiple scanners and tables to avoid such a logjam.
That said, the Rewards System appears to be a success, even if only for the incentive to get the "free" Stampede membership.
Ignoring an Upcoming Achievement for the sake of "precedent"
We've touched on him before, but it is truly remarkable what one fan is about to accomplish. His website, Longhorn Roadtrip, outlines how he has been able to attend 98 (by my count) consecutive UT games. This span includes all Big 12 and NCAA Tournament games, with each and every trip being paid for out of his own pocket through his summer job. Did I mention that this trip started while he was a student?
While he'll never let you know, and I wont dwell on it, it has come to my attention that UT Athletics shot down a request (not by him) to briefly recognize his 100th straight game attended, which should come against Kansas State. The rationale given was something over a slippery slope argument over not wanting to set a precedent that would have to be followed in the future.
Verdict: That's just weak...if someone else ever approaches his current streak (as a student), then I'll be the first one to tell them congratulations. And I dont care if it sets a precedent.