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Has Big Blue Madness Campout run its course?

Big Blue Madness Campout is a prime example of what makes Kentucky Basketball so unique; what other school can boast that its fans camp out for free tickets to a practice? Yet, in recent years, Madness Campout has lost its luster. Not only has construction forced UK to limit areas in which fans can camp, the event has become such a production that it’s lost its original charm. With UK once again asking fans to consider getting their tickets online instead of camping out, it’s time to ask ourselves: has Madness Campout run its course? Let’s break it down.

It doesn’t really serve its original purpose

Let’s go back to the origin of the event itself. Midnight Madness began in the 1980s under Joe B. Hall, but fans didn’t start camping out for tickets until 1993. Back then, camping out served a simple purpose: it was the only way to ensure you got your tickets. For the majority of Kentucky fans, that’s a big deal. Tickets in Rupp Arena can be hard to come by, so Madness became the event for the everyday fan, and Madness Campout the event for the most passionate. To some extent, this is still true; however, now that you can get tickets on Ticketmaster, campout is purely symbolic. Case in point: only 1,000 fans camped out last year, and apparently, not everyone who did got lower level seats. If you can’t get lower level seats by camping out, what’s the point?

The spontaneity is gone

One of the best parts about Madness campout used to be the pick-up games on the blue courts. Players would come out and play against campers, the type of interaction fans dream of their entire lives; however, that tradition ended in 2012 when Nerlens Noel almost hurt himself and a young camper on this ill-fated dunk attempt:

So, no more pick-up games. Early on in the Cal Era, players would come and play cornhole and mingle with fans, but the event has grown so big that it’s now an actual production, sponsored by Coke and Papa John’s, with a “Tent City Live” stream and a schedule of activities. From 9-11 a.m., campers will be treated to Coke promotions from the Coca-Cola Stage; at 1 p.m., there will be a hot dog grill out sponsored by Kroger; at 9 p.m., get ready because the players will be passing out Papa John’s pizza!

Campout evolving into a corporately sponsored event was probably an inevitability in this day and age, but it stifles the spontaneity that made the event so fun to begin with.

They’re actually running out of space

UK sent out a warning again this year that because of construction on campus (and the new buildings that construction has produced), space will be extremely limited, and that once the area around Memorial Coliseum reaches capacity, fans will be asked to get their tickets online instead. From a logistics standpoint, camping out is harder than ever.

What has it really become?

Look, I love Kentucky basketball, but, as family, we can admit that we go a little crazy sometimes. That crazy is on full display at campout. For the most part, it’s harmless; fans being fans, sharing their excitement for another season and supporting the players. Yet, in recent years, it feels like campout has become a glorified autograph session, to the point UK puts up barriers between the lodge and gym so the guys can go work out without being mobbed. Some groups embrace that, hanging outside with fans to sign autographs and mingle; others shy away from it, holing up in the lodge.

What can make it better?

Madness campout is one of the best traditions in Kentucky basketball, but it needs a jolt of life. Space limitations can’t be helped, but there has to be a better way for players to interact with fans. Get them out of the lodge to cover it for KyWildcatsTV? Find a unique way to honor the first ten people in line? Open Memorial for a dunk contest? I’m not sure what the solution is, but something’s gotta change.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

16 Comments for Has Big Blue Madness Campout run its course?

  1. wildcat1515
    8:21 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    I’m sure KSR was one of the first sites to stream live from the campgrounds. KSR is the site that would post hour by hour updates. So if anyone is to blame???

  2. ClutchCargo
    8:29 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    It has more than run its course. Time to end it.

  3. KatsKlaws
    8:32 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    My family used to go religiously in what we call the “good old days” but as the event grew and grew and became more structured just as TT writes about we quit going. I have been saying that the entire event and ticket distribution needed to be revamped for the past few years. So yes, I believe it is time for the “camp out ” to fizzle out.

  4. counterbalance
    8:48 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    Time to let it go

  5. mtmc60
    8:57 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    I don’t think it’s been the same since they moved it to Rupp. It felt special when it was at Memorial, because of the limited seating and history of the venue.

  6. timewilltell
    9:27 pm August 15, 2017 Permalink

    On my life bucket list when I retire. Hold on 4 more years please. Want to enjoy it with my grandsons.

  7. StuckinLville
    12:05 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    I have been so many years that going to the event doesnt matter. I just enjoy meeting the players and the environment. I did notice last year though was a different group of people. There are those taking advantage of autographs, but fans like me who thoroughly enjoying meeting them and getting a ball signed and I have definitely noticed the change. But nothing wrong with free food and drinks.

  8. kuhlkat
    3:24 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    Damn buzz kill people.
    The event is awesome for those who go.
    If u don’t like it stay home.

    • Realme
      9:40 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

      Seriously. Obviously a lot of people DO want to go. If you don’t that doesn’t mean you have to campaign to end it for everybody else.

  9. RealCatsFan
    6:50 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    Remember the days when if you were lucky you could get an autograph from a player? Those days are gone. Now you have to go to a venue and pay fifty bucks. Take this away and to me it is another example of the school turning its back on the fans. If they can’t make money on it, they don’t want to have it around. If it is going to fizzle out, let it do it on its own, but don’t take something else away from dedicated fans. Fix what’s wrong with it and keep it.

    • KentuckyT
      12:42 pm August 16, 2017 Permalink

      Players charge for autographs once they are eligible to do so, and that is their decision. Sorry that you enjoyed exploiting them for free stuff.

  10. sprtphan
    7:25 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    Never had any use for it.

  11. EdC
    9:03 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    In early 80s we used to camp for some key games as well. Getting the prime seats was great, will never forget sitting right behind Dale Brown and ruining his attempt at a perfect run. The camping made for a big part of the story as well. That year we rented a U-Haul trailer, plopped some mattresses and a poker table with chairs in it and “camped” for days parked in front of Memorial.

    My point is that whether any individual personally like it or not it makes for fun memories and stories for those who do. That’s enough purpose in its own right to me.

  12. kyle heavy
    9:04 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    It’s never made sense to me. I think it is a little loony.

  13. Sentient Third Eye
    9:19 am August 16, 2017 Permalink

    UK obviously hates the campout and has been working hard to kill it for years.