Kiel Russell has stood in the first three rows of every men's basketball game since he came to Duke-. Except last Friday.
The sophomore said he had to wait in the walk-up line for Friday's game against North Carolina Central University because he when tried to validate online, registration for spots in the student section was already full. All available slots-estimated at between 700 and 800 seats-were filled 20 minutes into the registration period, which opened at 12 a.m. last Wednesday.
A new policy, which was used for the first time at the Blue-White scrimmage, requires undergraduates to register for men's basketball games up to three days in advance online. Seats unclaimed one hour before tip-off are then made available to students waiting in a walk-up line.
Like other students, Russell said he may get used to the policy as the season progresses, even though he was frustrated about his spot in Friday's game.
"I'm worried about what will happen with some of the more popular games," said sophomore Ben McCormick, who was also unable to validate for the NCCU game. "I feel like it could be very difficult to get validated [for those games], but I don't think it has been a disaster either."
Head Line Monitor Roberto Bazzani, a senior, said everyone in the walk-up line got into Friday's game, and 90 to 95 percent of those who validated redeemed their tickets.
The high student demand to validate for the NCCU game was an anomaly, Bazzani said. Junior Sunny Kantha, Duke Student Government vice president for athletics and campus services, added that 80 spots for last night's game against New Mexico State were not registered when the period ended and were granted to students in the walk-up line.
Some students said the policy-which has been criticized by fans for subverting the competitive nature of attending games-could be improved to reward die-hard fans.
"I thought [the policy] was completely unfair to me as well as everyone in the walk-up line," said freshman Michael Warady, who stood in line for Friday's game. "All I care about really is rewarding every student for how much time and effort they put into [getting into games] and not [for] logging on at midnight and pushing a button."
Warady also proposed a change to the policy at the DSG meeting last Wednesday that would reserve the first 100 seats in Cameron Indoor Stadium for students standing in line for the game.
Kantha said he liked the idea and had proposed it in meetings with the athletics department, but chose to hold off on any changes to the policy until next year.
"We decided to stay away from it because we thought it would complicate the situation further," he said. "The last thing you want is people getting intimidated [by the changes]."
A number of seats for the NCCU game were sold to nonstudents before the validation period began, students said, although neither Bazzani nor Kantha would confirm the rumor. Kantha noted, however, that the NCCU game was ticketed differently from other games.
Many students said they noticed that the student section was fairly packed, which some attributed to a combination of fewer validation spots and increased attendance.
"Based on the first game I think there's an increase in attendance," junior Justin Ostrowski said. "A lot of that was it seems that this year's freshmen are better than last year's freshmen. The student section was much fuller than usual, and that's a good thing."
Bazzani said there was no precise way to measure how much the policy increased attendance, but he and Kantha both said they believe the policy has been effective thus far and will continue to improve turnout at upcoming games.
And although the policy may be achieving goals quantitatively, it is less popular amongst students who feel that the most devoted fans end up in the back of Cameron.
"I know several people who are hardcore fans who weren't able to validate," sophomore Amanda Marchese said. "That shows there's a problem with [the policy]."
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