ESPN’s College GameDay had never traveled to Auburn for a basketball game prior to Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
In anticipation of the show’s debut inside Auburn Arena, students began to line up outside the arena before sunrise. The first 2,100 students with a valid Ignited card to enter into the arena for College GameDay received wristbands that gave them priority entrance to the game later that evening. Following the conclusion of College GameDay, confusion and chaos soon erupted.
According to Auburn Athletics, the lower-bowl area of Auburn Arena seats 1,500 people. An email from Auburn Athletics said, “Standard student bleacher policy will be in effect with first-come, first-served seating in the lower-level bleachers. Students with wristbands not in the lower level will receive standing-room-only/drink-rail tickets.”
Some students, however, had misconceptions that the wristbands guaranteed a seat in the lower bowl.
“I was mad they gave out significantly over the capacity in wristbands,” said Kaylee Weeks, junior in wildlife sciences. “I thought the point of the wristbands were to act as an incentive to come to GameDay so that you were guaranteed a spot in the lower bowl ... we ended up in standing room behind section 116.”
Students given priority entrance wristbands were not forced to stay for the duration of College GameDay.
“A lot of people got their wristbands and left College GameDay to get right back in line,” said Anne Marie Bonadio, sophomore in computer science.
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Not all who left GameDay early immediately got back into the line for the game. One student said he got the wristband, left and took a nap.
He later returned to the arena around 2:30 p.m., at which time he said he cut to the front of the line with his friends.
Matthew Jones, a senior in chemical engineering, left the arena around 9 a.m. because he was not in the lower bowl for College GameDay.
“I figured I had to get back in line early for the actual game, so I took that time to go home, shower and eat some breakfast,” Jones said. “I got back in line for the actual game around 11 a.m.”
At about 2 p.m., the time when line formation was scheduled to start for the game, the line was already backed up past Village Dining. The line then began to condense, with people rushing toward the doors of the arena.
“People started pushing past me and knocking other people down,” Weeks said. “The barricades near the doors were knocked down and people kept just walking around the huge group of people that was made.”
The huge group of people was packed tightly, with barely enough room to move. The massive rush of people toward the doors resulted in friend groups being split up and led to several students losing their spots in line. Kaki Holcek, a sophomore in pre-communication disorders, was one of those students.
“At one point everyone said, ‘Forget the line,’ and rushed to the doors,” Holcek said. “It was chaos, and I ended up losing my place that I held for several hours. I ended up sitting on the end of the court right behind the basket, so I couldn’t see anything. I did not like my seat.”
Holcek and Bonadio both got in line before 5 a.m. and stayed the entirety of GameDay. They joined the hundreds of others who immediately got back in line following the conclusion of the show, waiting another four hours until the doors opened for those who had a priority entrance wristband.
“Those of us who waited in line for hours on end to represent Auburn at College GameDay really weren’t rewarded at all,” Bonadio said. “Those of us who did attend College GameDay were a little cheated at the end of the day.”
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