The men’s basketball team is not the only thing in crisis in the Smith Center. There’s also a major problem with the seating policy.
The majority of students is relegated to seats in the upper-reaches of the cavernous arena, while the court-side seats are occupied by major donors. And many student tickets go unused.
This needs to change. I’m calling for the donors who occupy the court-side seats to trade places with the students. Give students the chance to sit lower-level and mid-court.
Donors should be thanked for their generous support. But they should also recognize that the basketball team is a group of college students. It’s an amateur — not professional — team that exists because the University exists.
The ticketing system is in place for a reason. Students had the chance to help pay for the arena and in return be granted seating priority, but they declined a student fee referendum in 1979. Therefore, prime seats are reserved for the major donors.
To force the students out of the best seats because of this decision is unfair and wrong. The fundamental priority should be to create a student-led atmosphere.
As is, students receive about 6,000 tickets to every game — 4,000 upper-level and 2,000 lower-level. The majority of the remaining 15,000 or so tickets goes to donors, faculty and staff.
In 2000 the risers, 400 court-side seats, were installed. This was a step in the right direction.
Student attendance at games this year has certainly not been great. Clint Gwaltney, associate athletic director, said during the Georgia Tech game last Saturday, 600 student tickets went unused.
That’s pretty pathetic for a basketball team coming off a national championship and ranked in the top 25. But maybe it’s because students are not given top priority.
That’s not the case at Duke. Our archrival gets its ticketing priorities straight. For an undergraduate population of about 6,200, there are around 1,200 tickets available to the lower-level area that lines the court.
Duke’s major donors are known as the Iron Dukes. They receive about 5,800 season tickets to the upper-level of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Iron Dukes donate a lot and could claim they deserve the best seats. But they recognize the importance of a raucous student section. As a result, the Cameron Crazies are probably the best known fans in college basketball.
At UNC, it’s going to take a similar commitment from both donors and students.
Students have to want to create a wild atmosphere and commit to attend games. Donors, in return, should recognize that it’s in the best interest of the team and the University, to have students in the best seats.
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