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Kentucky students aren’t filling the student section and here are the many reasons why


via Twitter: @markcstory

Kentucky men’s basketball most recent nail-btting win over the University of Vermont was less about the team’s underwhelming performance and more about the nearly-empty student section. Through the first three exhibition games and the two regular season games, the eRUPPtion Zone has been sparse. Many have been quick to blame students and cite their lack of enthusiasm as the driving reason behind the small crowds. As someone who has been a student at the University of Kentucky for four years now and attends several games a year as a member of the student section, I can firmly state that the reasoning goes far beyond students simply not wanting to support the team.

Ticket price increase

To start, the University raising ticket prices from $5 per game to $10 has had a huge effect. What seemed like a small spike initially has become one of the main reasons as to why students are hesitant to pay for tickets. The cost of tuition to attend the University is close to $10,000 and a lot of students have no choice but to dig themselves into debt just to obtain an education. Now, instead of paying $20 for a four-game lottery package, students must pay $40. For students who are already knee-deep in student loans, adding an extra $20 on top of the price is a financial decision they have to make. And not surprisingly, students are choosing to keep that money. Kentucky’s thought process was that if they charged more the games, students would be more inclined to attend them rather than skipping them. What they forgot to factor in is that students are already giving the school all of their money.

The lottery process

The entire ticket lottery is a mess in itself. If students want the chance to watch games, they have to go to Memorial Coliseum for upwards of two hours to get a ticket where they have no idea if they’ll be sitting in the eRUPPtion Zone or in the upper level until the process even starts. I remember a situation a few years ago when I was a sophomore, where four of my friends and I went to the lottery at Memorial for a package of non-conference games. We were the second to last group out of 30-plus groups that selected tickets. We waited two hours to do so and the only tickets remaining were ones in the upper level. We knew rather quickly that we were the second to last group but had to wait anyway if we wanted to get our tickets (which we did). We went to the very next lottery and once again were the second to last group. We decided to leave instead of waiting.

This is something that could be solved with an online lottery system, which is more than manageable in 2017. The fact that Kentucky is still behind on this is part of the issue.

The reason we left had a lot to do with the fact that we knew what we were getting into. Since we were second to last, we would most likely receive upper-level seats to watch four non-conference games where the only marquee matchup was against the University of Texas (which Kentucky won in a route). Even if we were lucky enough to be one of the first groups selected, the appeal of sitting in the eRUPPtion Zone isn’t spectacular.

Kentucky raised the price of tickets without enhancing the experience. There’s nothing new and special about standing in the eRUPPtion Zone that would warrant the added charge. The main appeal of the eRUPPtion Zone is watching the game, but games against Vermont aren’t what students want to stand and watch for two hours.

Students agree.

“The lottery system is just too convoluted when there are far more productive ways to spend your time,” said Kentucky student and KSR writer, Jay Winkler.

“Tickets for a Kentucky basketball game, especially a good one, are pricey and difficult to get. It’s a steal to attend a Kentucky basketball games for 10 bucks, regardless the circumstances of getting the tickets,” said EKU student and KSR writer, Brent Wainscott. “With that said, the lottery seems like a broken system. Make the tickets first come first serve, like every other ticket in Rupp Arena. We also live in 2017, why should students have to wait at Memorial Coliseum for hours on end? Just conduct the ticket process online and give students the option to pick them up or have it emailed to them.”

Overall attendance

But it’s not just students, overall attendance is down for early season games and it’s a trend that has been visible for years now. Since 2007, seven of the eight home games that have had attendance numbers below 21,000 have been in the month of November. Four of those games took place before the month of November was halfway over. Who did Kentucky play? Central Arkansas, Gardner-Webb, Stony Brook, Longwood, Texas-Arlington, Utah Valley, and Vermont. Essentially, when Kentucky plays a bad team early in the season, fans are less inclined to attend. Which makes sense given the fact that this years team has struggled. Fans don’t want to watch two bad teams play each other (or at least not in person when they can do so in the comfort of their own home, with the ability to occupy themselves with something else when things get dull). It’s not just students, fans in general don’t want to watch these games in person and why would they?

*Friday’s game against Utah Valley. Lower level just as vacant as the student section*

Even Coach Calipari knows this team is not very good right now. Fans, media, and everyone else knows this team is simply just not where it will be come March. That isn’t the player’s fault, either. Kentucky operates in the one-and-done system and it just about always pans out in favor of the team by the time the tournament starts. But rarely does a Kentucky team composed almost entirely of freshmen jump out of the gate and rattle off 40-point wins in consecutive weeks. That just doesn’t happen, the team is always too young for that. I personally have no qualms about the one-and-done system and I think Calipari knows exactly what he’s doing, which is exactly why he’s been downplaying this team now and in the preseason. They’re just not good. If the coach himself is saying “I’ve got a noose around my neck. I’m holding on to a rope, my hands are bleeding, I’m kicking alligators and I’m coaching freshmen,” that sure doesn’t get me excited to watch them play, especially at a 100% ticket increase from last year.

There are 18 total games in Rupp Arena this season. So there are still 16 more opportunities for students to go to games and they know that. An incredibly young and struggling Kentucky team playing a mid-major school in early November at 3:30 on a Sunday is hardly appealing. If students have to choose between attending that game or squeezing in extra time to study as finals week inches closer and closer, it’s not exactly a difficult decision for them (Also, some of them may still be in Nashville following the football team’s win over Vanderbilt).

Kentucky plays a difficult non-conference schedule this season with some of those games at home. Home games against Harvard, Virginia Tech, and Louisville (although a 1 p.m. game on a Friday isn’t an ideal time slot) will all have a much more different and thrilling atmosphere and students know that. SEC games will surely be full for the most part and this “issue” will become a non-issue by the time January rolls around. I feel this problem presents itself every year as the season gets underway, this is just the first year students are being called out by the masses. Students are being unfairly ridiculed because they happen to sit a concentrated area that makes it easy to notice when they don’t show up. This isn’t on them. This is because nothing has changed within the system.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

43 responses to “Kentucky students aren’t filling the student section and here are the many reasons why”

  1. BigBlueFan18

    Why do people expect students to wait 2+ hours for tickets to “seats” where you can’t see anything unless you’re at least 6 ft?? Especially for a game against a team like Vermont. Of course you know students will pack in there for the bigger opponent games, but with the lottery process in addition to raising ticket prices those games are no longer worth it.

  2. tfordstyle

    Take the student tickets away to help lower the price of ppl who actually want to see the game. Had to wait 2 hours? Are you kidding me? No pain no gain. Crybaby want it now for free society rearing it’s ugly head everywhere.
    Just want to scream waaaaaa in someone’s face talking about a 2 hour wait. Pathetic.

    1. Optional Facts

      Ok… I can either study for my quantum physics test coming up… or wait for 2 hours for tickets that are at the top for a game that has no appeal?? I’ll study every single time. If the game has appeal… that’s a different story but who care about popcorn state?

    2. bhb71

      Says the guy who probably has no idea what it’s like to be in the modern university system and likely has a simple, straightforward, and relatively low-stress life. Because I am an absolute fanatic, I wait the 2+ hours between writing research reports for the research lab in which I work 10+ hours a week, studying for university-level Physics, doing lab reports for said Physics class, studying for Biochemistry, writing 15+ page papers for one of my liberal arts classes, preparing a briefing on a terrorist organization for an Honors College class, studying for the MCAT, volunteering at the clinic, and going to the clinic for my own health problems, all just to get some obstructed view seats in the student section. Not all of us have so little on our plates in life that waiting two hours for seats to a basketball game is anywhere close to being worth our time.

    3. DrinknByTheBay

      Bhb71- I graduated from UK, I know about college life and the real world. You are embarrassing, snowflake. “Wha, wha, whaaaaaa!” Take your homework to the lottery (with a flask) like most solid college students, dumb-dumb.

    4. UK Football BRO

      It’s funny to me. We were moved from our 3rd row seat when they moved the student section be hind the goal. We still have lowers but it’s not the same. Glad to see it’s biting them in the ass.

  3. rainman

    Here is a novel idea, sell those tickets to someone who
    will actually appreciate them! LIKE ME!
    While I think it’s a great idea for students to attend the games!
    If they can’t appreciate just how hard they are to come by
    for most of us, I’m not sure they deserve them!

    Go ahead, unload on me!
    GO CATS, GO BIG BLUE!

    1. jzoneblue

      this isn’t the 1980’s. I bet all of you guys loved waiting at the DMV for hours. if the state gov’t can fix that problem, then UK can fix this problem. listen to your customers and give them some customer service. i’m 53 years old and hate planned stupidity (i.e. standing in a queue for hours).

  4. thatCat

    Embarrassing. Can’t spend $10 for a ticket but they’ll go to every bar downtown spending all they have to get drunk and watch it? Stop. Should be embarrassed and have more pride than to let that section be empty and not even rowdy during games. Shameful

  5. Dragon

    Did this guy just say student tickets were too expensive??? Um ok bro! Students loans and blah blah blah….please stop

  6. Cincy Cayt

    I think it’s the young (less hyped) team and higher prices. People have been pushing for an online lottery since I was there 04-08 and we still showed up for Tubby’s twilight years and BG.

  7. Bourbon Ginger

    I don’t know why people would rather sit in the nosebleeds than stand in the eRupption zone, but thats fine with me cause I had a horrible draw in the lottery and am still gonna get a good view for the Louisville game

    1. jzoneblue

      i will tell you why. my daughter is 5′ 2″ and they will not let her bring a milk crate to stand on.

  8. kykid16

    I for one think students should get in free! Add $1 to ticket prices for us grey hairs and have online lottery, let computer fill E-zone by random selecting student ID of those wanting to attend!

  9. chris43

    I can see why students aren’t going due to the price increase for tickets and I can also see why even the lower level seating has lots of empty seats. I’ve been a die hard UK fan for DECADES but the ticket prices are just so high it’s hard to justify spending that amount to watch a game. It’s a shame because a pack House with loud crazy fans gives quite the home court advantage.

  10. rem392

    I am in complete agreement with Tford and Rainman. if the students don’t want the tickets that is fine, put them on sale to real fans who would love to be at a game.

  11. GM1978

    Season ticket holder from ’12-’15…..paid roughly $380/seat for each game, so ticket jump from $5 to $10 is nothing—I’d probably waste $10 every day when I was a UK student

  12. az1006

    The lottery process was the exact same 10 years ago, and guess what? Students bought tickets and went to the games. Stop making the excuse about the lottery. It sucked then, it sucks now. Could it be improved? Obviously. But you’re only hurting yourselves by not going to the games while you can.

  13. tfordstyle

    Says the guy who has already been through it.
    I took books multiple times back in the day @ memorial although admittedly usually ended up playing cards with friends during the wait.

    It’s all priorities. If you wanted to go you’d make time to study and get the tickets… If you don’t, let’s free up those tickets and get them to people who do.

    As I’m typing this I read #12, az1006. Indeed it was the same 10 years ago, when I was there 🙂
    Right on.

  14. BlueDew

    The students have to come up with $40 when they buy a set of four tickets, not $10. The students are asking the AD to please change the way tickets are distributed. Instead, we want to hate on them. They are also voicing their opinion on how most fans sit on their a$$ most of the game and there isn’t an exciting atmosphere created during these cupcake games with stunts, music, or other entertainment. Instead, selfish adults are saying let’s take their tickets away from them……instead of trying to listen and solve the problem.

  15. Yev

    Some random thoughts.

    When the students are not in teh seats, let me tell you a secret. that means you dont wait 2 hours for ticket at the lottery. When demand is high, sure it takes 2 hours, but when demand is low, that is just false.

    If current students would prefer, here is a suggestion. Go back to the lottery taking place at a time that pretty much does not interfere with anything, Sunday at 8:30am. Before most jobs start, before most studying takes place, it works well. This is the time the lottery used to be and other than being awful due to beign so early, it was an efficient time.

    Money is a hard thing to talk about, because you can never know someone elses financial situation. For me and most of my friends, to think about 20 games at an extra $5 per game, thats an extra $100 over 5 months, we could have made that work. I did have a friend who was dirt broke, but even $1 was too much for tickets. So I might counter that I find it hard to believe that an extra $100 is your breaking point for finances, but acknowledge that it might be possible.

    As far as waisting 2 hours, if it does take that long, here is an idea, study while you do it. Bring a laptop or book, adn get to work. It is very possible to multitask.

    Now if you just dont want to go unless you have great seats, that is perfectly understandable. I get that, but just admit that you would rather watch at home than get a bad ticket. Dont blame other things like time, money, etc when this is the major factor.

    And as far as time goes, treat school like a full time job. 18 hours of class per week. Then soubel that and say that studying and class takes 18 hours. Add 20 hours per week to work, and then you have 56 horus of time used. As a student, you should have free fun time. But 7 days a week, lets say you sleep and eat 10 hours per day, Then you use the 56 hours per week. That still leaves 14 hours of free time, or 2 hours per day of free time. This does mean there is free time to use, if you want to use it

    1. Jiminy Crickets

      cant have lottery at 830am. This Millennials are still hung over at that time.

      Money? Show me one single student in the eruption zone that doesn’t have a Iphone, and decked out in UK gear. I get so sick and tired of the “I dont have the money” crap. If $10 is the reason you dont go, then DONT GO.

      It DOES NOT take 2 hours, unless the lottery is packed, as with the UL game package. The tickets are not being fully distributed (meaning the turnout to get tickets is low) therefore the wait is NOT that long. The issue is these kids do not want to have to go to memorial, they want it online and mailed to them

      I do agree the Erupption zone seats suck.If you dont like those, then either dont go take up the lottery tickets, OR pay the regular ticket prices for the better seats.

      I graduated from UK, my daughter is at UK now. If you think these kids are studying and working and in class 14 hours a day, then you have different impression than I do. I agree they live busy, chaotic lives, but me working 50 hours/week, plus kids and life I guarantee Im busier on a given day than than most of these kids.

      The truth is the atmosphere for a non-marquee game at Rupp sucks. The non-conference schedule, especially pre-thanksgiving, is terrible. Everyone knows big game Rupp is different than popcorn U Rupp

      I said it on here when KSR was asking why general attendance is down. The games are against DivII teams, with calipari freshman lead teams that are difficult to watch until sometime in January, while ticket prices going up. I get Texts every game that tickets are available to go to UK MBB. Its not just the students that are not interested in watching a freshman led team, not play defense, not be able to shoot, and struggle to beat Utah Valley St, while paying $50/ticket to sit midway up, and sit on bleachers.

  16. UKFanMan

    Every “reason” stated in this article and in the responses have some validity to them. I was UK 1983-1987. My son and his girlfriend are just out of college (24 and 29 years old respectively). I raised my son to bleed Blue through and through as much as I was raised to do so. I took him to UK football games and UK basketball games. And he loved it and was into it. Then he hit Puberty and had “better things to do” I suppose. Now he is still a UK fan…to a point. He will watch the games live on tv come NCAA Tournament time. Until then he is more likely to be online playing video games on Twitch. But every person and every situation is different. But for students? My only suggestions? Go back to $5 sure. Why not. Are they spoiled and do not appreciate the significance of the experience as much as they perhaps should? IMO, hell yes. But what do you expect from a 50-something fuddy duddy? Just a quick FYI. I was cool and cutting edge just the other day. I remember it all very plainly. My point there? Live your life to it’s fullest always. And experiences always greatly outweigh “stuff”. Stuff gets outdated and tossed while memories last a lifetime. But enuff of that genius crap from Phil O. Sofical. That dude always irritates. Ditch the darn “Lottery” bs. Life was better when it was the diehards who camped out who got the rewards with great seats to sporting and concert events. And if the eZone is really that horrible? I cannot say. I have never sat there (stood there?). In my day I sat lower level sideline as a student if I camped out and saw Bowie and Turpin and Walker take on Hakeem The Dream Olojuwan and Clyde the Glide Drexler. Plus Auburn had Barkley. It was a special time for sure. But so was 2010 and 2012 and 2015 and is really each and every year. Truth is though? With today’s college age kids that I know through my son and his girlfriend? They all profess to care and to love the Cats. But nowhere near the diehards we were when it comes to attending games or at least watching on live television. There are exceptions to every so-called rule of course. But times have changed. Technology has changed. Kids have changed. Make it as good as you can for the students. Period. Or…if you wanna be stubborn about it? Take them away and sell them to the General Public as season’s tickets. You know. The “theater” crowd. The “golf clap” crowd. The “deep-pockets” crowd. Today you have to be doing at least fairly darn well to even be able to afford UK Men’s basketball or football tickets to any game not called The Blue-White game or The Spring Game or Big Blue Madness or an out-of-the-blue charity game. But that is not a UK thing. UK is usually less than other SEC schools. It is just the way that it is unfortunately. You want the loud and true fans in there? Figure it out.

  17. katmandue2you

    All i want to say is that it is sad to see what the whole UK sports scene is compared to how it used to be. It is sad to see the lack of attendence and the lack of true “natural” enthusiasm that once existed. Going to a UK basketball game used to be an something to behold…a mind blowing scene…a statement that “something rare and extraordinary is happening here”. It’s just sad for me to see. Yeah I’m an “old-timer”. But one thing I’ve learned is that wisdom about the ways of the world is truely held by the aged. We live in the same world as youth. We have the same technology that today’s youth does. We know how life is today and we know how it was before all this technology existed. In many ways all the convenient technology is the downfall. And it is the reason young people see things as they do. It’s why we don’t get excited about going to games. It’s also why we sit and look at a freaking stupid phone and computer most of our waking hours. It’s sad. Sociologically and behaviorially society is facing some major issues for how all of this is ultimately going to effect humanity. But there is no doubt that all the gadgetry in the world that young people are dominated by has much to do with why attendance and enthusiasm are so compromised in todays world. Dont get me wrong…I have my face in this technology all day…i do this very moment…and it is not a good thing in the big picture.

  18. rtda225

    Take it from a life long Kentucky fan and current UK freshman. The University of Kentucky did a poor job teaching students how the lottery system works. There was no email with instructions on times and when and how to get tickets. The lottery is also on Monday nights which is a common time for students to be doing homework or studying. It is also the most common day for fraternities and sororities to have their meetings so many students cannot make it for that reason. Doubling the price of tickets also did not help. I am now forced to choose which tickets I can attempt to get. I cannot spend 40$ that easy. I would much rather pay the forty dollars for the SEC games than the mid major early season games. If the University really wanted to see an increase in student attendance they should change the time for the lottery to a time that would work for students and would return prices to original 5$ per game

  19. BluKudzu

    It is a shame students can’t get lower level front row seats in Rupp Arena.

  20. KYjellyRoll

    Student section should be along the sidelines… both sides. Makes for a better experience for player and fan. And harder on the opponent

  21. TonyMontana

    I’ve always been jealous about how Duke has their floor setup. It seems like every inch of the place you got some crazy blue wigged kid screaming in your face. We have a 70 year old dude with blue tinted sunglasses trying to look cool… so yea. I’ve dreamed for a Rupp redesign to make it a crazy atmosphere, more exciting to the recruits and our kids playing… but I guess that will never happen.

  22. gokycats33

    I know that if I lived closer, I would be more than willing to go to the games. In fact, I was trying to see if I could make it to the game last Friday, immediately after work. But there was no way I was making it to a 7:00pm game, after getting off work at 4:30pm. I was looking at at least a 3 hour drive to make it there.

  23. Jimmer

    I only made it to a handful of games in my five years at UK. The biggest reason for me was that lotteries were on Monday nights; the absolute worst night of the week for me. Monday’s were by far the busiest day of the week. “You can do your homework at the lottery!” some people say, yeah good luck with that. A basketball gym full of students and sitting on bleachers is not conducive to completing engineering homework. I despised watching games in the eRUPPtion zone, the area is too flat and difficult to see the court. Overall, I just don’t think Rupp is a great place to watch an everyday game; big games, sure, but Rupp is quiet and boring during lesser opponents.

    1. Jimmer

      Also, I’ve been to more games as an alumnus than as a student. Price is not that much of an issue, and I really like not having to go out of my way to get tickets.

  24. todd3940

    Another reason is lack of transportation. Rupp is a 45 minute walk from south campus (one way). UK did away with the shuttle bus in 2013. Most students don’t have a car. My son does and goes to every game. He takes 3 other students with him that don’t have a car. Then don’t forget about having to pay $15-$20 for parking on top of ticket price. Same as declining attendance for all it makes sense for some to just watch it in HD.

    1. NcCatFan75

      Wow, a whole 45 minute walk? Wonder where people come up with the “kids are soft these days” argument

    2. Yev

      Commonwealth Stadium to Rupp is 45 minute walk. Kirwain 3 (in South Campus is 35 minutes). so check your facts there.

      Students from Kirwain 3 have a 15 minute walk regularly to get to campus, so an extra 20 minutes is not like asking them to walk all that much more. Plus, if you are going to pay that much money to park, take a cab or an uber, will be cheaper. Or pay a buddy to pick you up and drop you off for half that much.

  25. Rise

    Rupp sucks unless it is a big game. Blue hairs lining the front rows is the issue.

    1. rainman

      Those Blue Hairs paid big $$$$ for what you won’t give 10 bucks for!

  26. Biglaw Dawgin'

    Put the lottery online or allow students to resell to anyone. Either one will solve the issue. If they can resell, it’s no longer an issue to wait for 2 hours or pay an extra $5 since they can make their time/money back. Fans willing to sit with the crazies can get in for cheaper than normal, the kids make a few bucks, we pack it out, everyone wins. Kids who want to go can still go.

    1. NcCatFan75

      Makes sense in theory, but all it would do is land tickets in the hands of brokers that would resell for 100’s. The eRupption zone would end up looking like a retirement community

  27. NcCatFan75

    I get the money thing in college to a point. 10k a year (in state) should get you at least 4 free tickets.. Still though, it’s $40 for 4 games, which is a STEAL for ANY sporting event, especially UK bball, regardless of who they are playing. As someone said earlier, they will spend 3x that on ONE game in a bar or drop the same amount on a 5th of Makers. Further, as an adult with a mortgage, car payment, 2 kids, utility bills (and on and on), my costs FAR exceed those of a college student, yet I will get in my cat and drive for hours to go see the UK team play at USC (not exactly prime competition) and drop 50-60 a ticket to sit in nosebleeds. If I want closer, prime competition (UNC), I have to drop 200 a ticket to sit in the rafters. Cost is not an issue if you CARE to support your schools sports. So to me, these all just sound like lame excuses to save the RIGHT to go to games for super cheap when the mood hits them. Same goes for the lottery system. Ever think maybe it makes sense to make it less than easy to ensure the people that go really WANT to be there, rather than just grabbing the tickets for social purposes, making the eruption zone come off like the Blue Hairs rather than rabid fans?

  28. KayutsBy90

    You can’t complain that students get $10 tickets when we pay insane amounts in tuition every year. As someone who has been a student for 6 years and hasn’t gone to rupp in the last 4 years because its better on TV, I really hope they let the general public into the E-zone. Spend the entire game standing with a terrible view will make you yearn for upper arena seats or your couch.

    1. NcCatFan75

      But you don’t pay 10k a year for basketball. You pay 10k for an education that will change the outcome of your life. It is a PRIVILEGE they give you 10 dollar tickets. Turning down that privilege for a case of beer, a dinner, or a video game is on the students, not the University

  29. catdaddyd

    Have $1 beer night, they will show up…. I know they aren’t allowed to at this time but…

  30. yitbos93640

    If your argument is that it’s too time consuming to go to a lottery….how can you make it to a game? It’s $10/ticket….have one or two less beers and BAM…there’s your ticket money.