Carolina student seating isn’t nearly as good as years ago, but getting tickets is easier

By R.L. Bynum

Today’s Carolina students have no idea how much better seats their predecessors enjoyed at Tar Heels games decades ago — or how much easier ticket distribution is for them.

The university has to take care of Rams Club members who support the athletics programs. But college sports should be all about the athletes and their fellow students, and it’s too bad that UNC students don’t get better seats at games.

Duke gets plenty of hype because of the Cameron Crazies’ impact on basketball games. But if Carolina students had the best courtside seats at games just like the Duke students — instead of just a couple of hundred in the risers behind one basket — they could also make more of a difference.

It took 20 inches of snow in 2000 to give Carolina students a chance to prove it. When most fans couldn’t make it to the game, the ones who managed to make it to the Smith Center — mostly students — filled the many empty lower-level seats after the first television timeout.

With loud students surrounding the court, the unranked Tar Heels rallied from an 11-point deficit with a 14–0 run to snap a four-game losing streak with a 75–63 victory over No. 22 Maryland. They stormed the court after the game.

The students’ impact on helping Carolina rally that snowy day is why the risers have been behind one baseline since the 2000–01 season.

The seating for basketball and football is dramatically different than when my wife and I were students in the 1980s, although we had to work a lot harder to get those tickets.

The students sat in the lower part of Kenan Stadium on the south (home) side for football games. The student section started around the 45-yard line and went to the stadium’s edge (which ended at the corner those days and didn’t wrap around).

Today’s students sit behind the west-side end zone, and their views aren’t nearly as good.

For men’s basketball games, students filled the bleachers in Carmichael Auditorium, giving them a chance to be a factor just like the Crazies. There was additional overflow seating high in the arena.

Because the Smith Center is much bigger than Carmichael, many more student tickets are available there. But, other than the students in the risers, most students are far away from the court.

There are so many seats available to students that, for years, they have only used all of them for the Duke game. That led UNC to create a season-ticket plan for non-students who aren’t Rams Club members that doesn’t include the game against the Blue Devils.

Until this season, students at women’s basketball games sat in the bleachers. But, in a move partially designed to make them more visible to television audiences, most of the student seating is around the corner of the north side of Carmichael Arena, closest to the visitor’s bench. Game cameras are behind the bleachers.

Overflow seating is in the upper sections on the north side, and students filled all those seats for the 61–56 Jan. 19 win over Duke, when a school record of more than 1,500 fans supported Coach Courtney Banghart’s team. There were some nervous students in long lines before that game who wondered if they’d get into the game.

The shift has created plenty of distractions for opponents attempting free throws on that end, with students setting up the “Curtain of Chaos” behind the basket.

The good news for today’s students is that getting tickets isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it used to be. This season, students could get men’s basketball tickets for the non-conference games by just showing up on game day.

For the rest of the games — and football games — they enter a ticket lottery for a chance to get tickets.


It didn’t use to be that easy.

In the late-1970s, students waited in long lines outside Kenan Stadium early in the morning on game day to grab the best football tickets.

Those were the days when you only had to be 18 to buy beer, and many students somehow managed to procure liquor even though you had to be 21 to buy it. By the time the gates opened, many students had downed their share of beer and liquor and were in quite a lively mood.

In the 1980s, ticket distribution shifted to the week before.

For some highly anticipated football games, many students slept overnight in sleeping bags on the sidewalks around and near Carmichael Auditorium to ensure they snagged those coveted tickets. It, of course, turned into more of a party (with, perhaps, some studying), but it took a lot of effort.

After those distributions, there was plenty of evidence along the sidewalks that students boosted beer sales that week.

For men’s basketball in the 1980s, it was a different sort of time-consuming experience.

Students had to wait hours in Carmichael Auditorium to ensure they got tickets. You didn’t have to stay there for hours, but one representative from your group had to be there for the hourly check-ins to keep your place in line.

Living in Alexander Dorm had many advantages, and its proximity to Carmichael during those ticket distribution days was one of them.

Duke students get better seats but have to earn them by camping in Krzyzewskiville for weeks.

UNC students shouldn’t have to wait overnight for tickets, but it’s too bad that their seats aren’t as good as the ones that students enjoyed years ago.

Photo via @GoHeels


1 Comment

  1. I agree. We need Carolina Crazies right on the court like the Dookies. I am a ‘67 UNC grad and I look for the students to cheer on our teams. The Rams Club just sit there with arms folded. They need to be moved back and allow the ball players to get the encouragement they deserve. Go Heels!


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