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Buzz surrounding UNC football leads to student ticket fiasco

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UNC students watch the game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. UNC beat Miami 28-25.

If you’re a student at UNC, you’ve felt the hype around campus surrounding the North Carolina football team. The return of Hall of Fame head coach Mack Brown and wins over South Carolina and Miami have suddenly made Tar Heel football games marquee events.

But a new student ticket policy has put a damper on the fun for many this season. 

In previous years, students were simply able to swipe their OneCards at the gates of Kenan Stadium on game day for admission. Now, students have to claim tickets to home games through an online portal, which opens at 9 a.m. 10 days before the game in question.

With claim periods having passed for the home opener against Miami and upcoming games versus Appalachian State and Clemson, some UNC students have been frustrated with the new process. 

“I definitely think it’s more trouble than it’s worth,” sophomore Matthew Jaynes said. “I’ve had a couple of negative experiences. I’ve logged on to the ticket claiming process right at 9 a.m., but I’ve still been put in a virtual waiting room. It’s been super finicky to get tickets so far.”

After the request period for the Miami game opened on Aug. 28, all 6,800 student tickets were claimed in a little over 24 hours, with the 200 student guest tickets gone well before. 

Since then, more students have become aware of the new procedure. It took approximately 30 minutes on Sept. 11 for students to grab all available tickets for this Saturday’s App State game; for the game against No. 1 Clemson, tickets were snagged in about 25 minutes on Wednesday morning. 

There have been complaints from those with other commitments — such as class or work — during the Wednesday morning claim periods. It also didn’t help that the portal for the App State game crashed for many due to high volume.

Gerry Lajoie, senior assistant director of athletics and ticket operations, said that the athletics department added additional servers to the portal after the technical difficulties.


Another change to this Wednesday's claim period included a randomization of students' places in the virtual waiting room. No matter how early students accessed the website, when the clock struck 9 a.m., the line's order was randomly shuffled. 

“If you have 10,000 people looking for 7,000 tickets, not everyone’s going to get one,” Lajoie told The Daily Tar Heel on Tuesday. “But I think we certainly learned a lot from that first week to the next week. We’re still evaluating the process. We’re looking at it; we’re talking about it internally.”

Lajoie said the new policy was initially discussed after last season’s home night game against Virginia Tech, when there was overcrowding in the student section and "a mess” at the entry gate. He added that the policy "dovetailed together nicely" with the return of Brown, one that brought a newfound excitement around the program. 

Lajoie emphasized that the protocol, implemented after discussions with the Carolina Athletic Association and Carolina Fever, had more to do with safety and preparation than it did with boosting student attendance.

However, Carolina Fever co-chairperson Peyton Collette said the athletics department has stressed the importance of student attendance at football games to Fever and other campus organizations. 

Collette, a senior, said he’s also heard criticism of the system from other Fever students. Still, he acknowledged the benefits of the new policy, particularly in regards to the student turnout and atmosphere in the Tar Heels' home-opening 28-25 win over the Hurricanes.

“Maybe it’s recency bias, but I truly do feel that this past Miami game was the best environment we’ve had in Kenan,” Collette said. “And maybe the student section owes that a little bit to the new system of putting pressure on students to actually get there.”

Student tickets are voided at kickoff, so there is indeed pressure on students to arrive early. And even though they’ve only played one game at home so far, the players felt a different energy from the student body, too. 

“The student section was great — it was phenomenal,” graduate defensive tackle Aaron Crawford said after practice on Tuesday. “It was the best I’ve ever seen by far. You can tell that they really impacted the game, really the stadium as a whole.”

While it seems like a majority of students have been critical of the ticketing procedure, some are in favor of it because of the hype it’s created for Tar Heel football.

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Senior Hugh Kelley admits when he first received the email from Carolina Athletics regarding the changed policy, he was frustrated. But he’s since changed his mind. 

“I kinda just realized that it’s creating demand and just generally making people more excited about the football season,” Kelley said. 

He continued, "You can’t just go and tailgate for as long as you want and show up 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour late and go because you want to get the photo in Kenan. You have to get there 30 minutes early, as Mack Brown has requested, and really be dedicated. And I personally think that’s awesome.”

But there are some consequences of the protocol that the University might not have considered. 

After Jaynes didn’t receive a ticket to the Appalachian State game, he was done trying his luck. He purchased a student guest ticket through the ticket office, which comes with a regular student ticket, for the game against Clemson on Sept. 28.

Jaynes paid $75 for the pair of seats — a cost he said he’ll split with his girlfriend, a die-hard Tigers fan. 

Then, there’s the issue of students selling their free student tickets. Jaynes and Kelley said they’ve already seen tickets sold around campus for the first three home games. 

“I definitely think it shouldn’t happen,” Jaynes said. “I think every student should get a fair chance to claim a ticket. You shouldn’t be jumping on just to make a profit, especially since you’re getting that ticket for free.”

Lajoie said his office has heard feedback — both positive and negative — from students, and has had internal discussions to better the process moving forward. A suggestion that’s been brought up in meetings is using a lottery system, similar to the one used to distribute student tickets for men’s basketball games. 

“We’ve not settled on that, but we certainly had internal discussions and a lottery has been mentioned, where there’s a larger claim period to at least get an entry,” Lajoie said. “Maybe you’re not claiming a ticket, but you’re claiming an entry, and you have 24 to 48 hours to do so.”

In the meantime, though, students should get accustomed to the current policy.

“I don’t see us going back to a system where you show up with your OneCard — I don’t think that’s happening,” Lajoie said. “But talking about, ‘Are there better ways to handle the student process?’”

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@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com