UNC juniors Andrei Sergeyev and Richard Baker went together to last Saturday’s game against Louisville. Like many students, both waited outside in the cold and, upon entry, cheered on their favorite players until they left the Smith Center after a heartbreaking 21-point loss to the Cardinals.
Both Sergeyev and Baker applied for tickets through the men’s basketball lottery registration. Baker won tickets. Sergeyev did not.
In fact, Sergeyev said he has only won student lottery tickets once during his time at UNC.
“I don’t even remember the game I won tickets to,” Sergeyev said. “It was my first year.”
With basketball season in full swing and March Madness just around the corner, it’s easy to see why UNC students are eager to attend as many home games as possible. Ryan Miller, director of Ticketing, Customer Service and Communications for Carolina Athletics said the student ticket lottery is a fair and equitable way to distribute free student tickets, but students like Sergeyev are consistently unlucky.
“I have Twitter notifications on for the Carolina Athletic Ticket Office, so I get notified every time a new lottery opens up. Unless I’m busy at the time of it opening, I apply pretty much ASAP," Sergeyev said. “I have always had an invested interest in Carolina basketball since I was little, so despite my poor luck, I still apply every time because I know it’s a good opportunity that won’t be available forever. I try to take advantage now.”
Senior Grayson Gruninger said he has also applied for almost every lottery since his first year and that he has only won about six times in total.
“I didn’t get tickets to the Louisville game, and that’s when I went and looked at how many times I’d gotten an email saying ‘Unfortunately, you have not been randomly selected in the lottery to receive student tickets.’ I counted, and I had gotten that email 18 times,” Gruninger said.
Miller said a student should win the lottery about one out of every six times they enter – leaving students like Sergeyev and Gruninger wondering why this has not been the case for them.
How it works
Student lottery tickets are available for every home ACC game and any Power 5 school non-conference matchups, as well as the game against Gonzaga this year. Students must go through their student ticket account to request tickets, making sure to complete the full transaction, followed by receiving an email confirmation detailing their order.
Every student who entered the lottery is placed in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Selections are made randomly by listing all using Microsoft Excel’s “RandBetween formula.”
“We then sort the list of entries by the random number (high to low every time) and select the number of winners we need to fill the student ticket allotment,” Miller wrote in an email to the Daily Tar Heel.
The winning students receive two tickets each, with the exception of only one given for Duke home games, that are both labeled with a specific phase, dictating the time they're are allowed to enter the Dean Dome. Phase 1 tickets winners are allowed to enter the arena 90 minutes prior to the tip off. Phase 2 winners can enter 60 minutes prior, and Phase 3 winners can enter 30 minutes prior.
Both the winners and non-winners receive a confirmation and follow-up email, either enclosing printable tickets or a rejection message.
Student who do not receive tickets can opt to form a standby line the day of the game and wait to receive any unused tickets. According to Miller, the line has had a 100 percent success rate so far this year.
Confusion and myths
Neither Gruninger nor Sergeyev have contacted the ticketing office with their concerns about the randomization process, but both agree that ticket information needs to be more readily accessible and clear for all students.
“A lot of first-years don’t even know how the lottery works. Most of them find out through an upperclassman,” Gruninger said.
Even upperclassmen find the lottery process unclear or confusing.
“I have some friends who have told me that they didn’t even realize that you could not win the lottery," Sergeyev said. "They just assumed that everyone who applied got at least a Phase 3 ticket.”
All lottery games are published on the Carolina Athletics website. Upon receiving student feedback, the ticketing office started sending email reminders every time a lottery opens. The website also now provides a video explanation of how to log into your student ticket account.
Increasing your chances
There is only one way to guarantee two Phase 1 tickets for each men's basketball home game and one Phase 1 Duke ticket – being one of the top 150 students of Carolina Fever. According to Carolina Fever co-chairperson Rebecca Griffin, Carolina Fever incentivizes students to attend sporting events that are not as visited as basketball or football to gather “points.” Different sporting events are worth a different amount of points.
“The more points you accumulate, the more likely you’ll be in the top 150 students,” Griffin said. “You have to maintain your status throughout the year in order to get tickets.”
Carolina Fever administrators list which students are ranked within top 150 and then send the information to the ticketing office. From that point on, the randomization process begins.
This still poses problems for students who are unable to attend different sporting events that are not on campus or take place during the weekends. Griffin also said that this year, executives worked to better inform students that were either unaware of or didn’t understand the point system.
Gruninger suggested that maybe in the future, a compensation system could be put in place for students who didn’t have the best luck or weren’t guaranteed tickets through Carolina Fever.
“Every student should get the magic of one of the big games, especially the ones against Duke,” he said.
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