This past Saturday’s game between the No. 17 Auburn Tigers and the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats was one of the most highly anticipated games in the history of Auburn basketball. With College GameDay coming to Auburn for the first time in the program’s history, the hype surrounding this game reached another level entirely. While the game itself lived up to the hype, the 12-15 hours that some fans experienced before the game did not come close.
The Auburn Athletic Department implemented a plan that had good intentions but was not very well thought out and executed extremely poorly. The students themselves behaved with a sort of mob mentality pushing and shoving for spots in line.
With College GameDay airing at 10 a.m., the athletics department was trying to figure out a way to ensure that the student section would be full for the show without costing those students a spot in line.
The idea was that the first 2,100 students who went to GameDay would receive wristbands which would guarantee them entrance into the arena for the game when doors opened at 3 p.m. This was a way for the department to incentivize going to GameDay while also reassuring students that they would still be able to go to the game and that no line would form while they attended GameDay.
The first of many problems was that as the day progressed, there was no clear distinction between students with wristbands and those without and rendered the wristbands worthless. As the line grew and students began cutting, there was no clear separation between students with wristbands and those without.
Another problem was that some students swiped in and received their wristband, and then, almost immediately left and got in line for the game. This led to some students who had arrived at the arena as early as 2 am finding an already long line as soon as they exited GameDay.
While on their own these problems would have been minor, they were aggravated by one of the biggest problems of the entire day, the 2,100 students that were going to be allowed into the game. The total capacity of the student section is around 1,500, which meant that about 600 students were forced to go to the standing room only near to the top of the arena.
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Oddly enough, I have not even discussed the worst part of the entire mess that was Saturday. At around 2 pm, many students started to rush to the doors creating a domino effect as the rest of the students did not want to lose their spot.
This caused a line of about 3,000 people, which stretched back past South Donahue Dr., to condense into about 300 feet of space. With no one monitoring the situation, students began cutting to the front, jumping the barricades and simply pushing through them.
With everyone so tightly packed together, students were in danger of being trampled or worse, as every time there was a push, there was little some students could do other than getting carried by it.
Everyone was so close together there was nearly no room to breathe, and even worse, nothing to do with all of the trash students had with them throughout the day. With trash cans overflowing and students not willing to risk losing their spot, a lot of garbage ended up going to the ground, which made the whole area smell awful.
The College GameDay experience for many students this past Saturday did not exactly live up to expectations. The plan devised by the athletic department oversold the student section by roughly 600 seats, and once the situation got out of hand, there was little done to fix the problems such as cutting in line or the littering. Many students ignored simple rules and charged the doors and the barricades as there was an extreme rush for the limited seating.
Overall, while the chaotic mess that was Saturday did not ruin the game for some, including myself, it is something that needs to be addressed so that it will not happen again as this was likely not the last time College GameDay will visit Auburn Arena while Bruce Pearl leads the program.
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