It was 5:40 a.m. when Likhitha arrived.
At first, I made a pact with myself that I would leave at 6:50 no matter what to take my car out of Allen Lot. Then 6:50 a.m. came and I had barely moved in line. So, I pushed back my deadline to 7:30 a.m., then 8:15 a.m., then approaching 9 a.m.
There were still probably 100 people at that point and I had no plan. I couldn’t wait in this line forever. I had this gut feeling that I got a parking ticket or towed. Then, a line monitor made an announcement.
They were sold out.
Part of me felt relief. At least, I didn’t have to wait in this line anymore. But, mostly I was frustrated. I was a senior who had never been to Countdown to Craziness. And after standing in that line for more than three hours, I left empty-handed.
The sun had yet to rise and hundreds of students were already lined up to get Countdown to Craziness tickets for themselves and their parents. We are both news reporters for The Chronicle, but we were also among those in line. Neither of us got tickets.
An ‘unprecedented’ number of people showed up
Countdown to Craziness is the annual unveiling of the Duke men’s basketball team, featuring a scrimmage, student performances and occasionally a dunk contest. This is the second year in a row in which it has fallen on Family Weekend, which typically includes a basketball game.
Tickets sold out unusually fast this year. Tickets for Family Weekend basketball events are sold around a week before, starting at 6 a.m. They typically sell out later that day or the next day, said Elinor Hurt, executive director of ticketing operations for Duke Athletics. This year, however, they were sold out by 9 a.m.
“My experience this year was the worst I have had trying to acquire [Duke basketball] tickets,” wrote junior Yannet Daniel. “I was already on the fence about deciding to go to Countdown, but after waiting in line for three hours only to be told that the tickets were sold out, this experience has changed the way I view the program. It seemed as though very little, if any, planning went into this procedure.”
Peter Potash, one of the co-head line monitors, called the number of people in line for Countdown tickets “unprecedented.”
“That is just kind of the way K-Ville works,” he said. “Sometimes there's a lot of people and unfortunately with limited capacity you're not going to get a ticket if you don't come early enough.”
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Students' reactions: slow line, cutting, lack of transparency
One of students’ main frustrations with the ticket line was how slowly it moved. Sometimes, it wouldn’t move at all for thirty minutes at a time. Senior Siera Lunn wrote in an email that the line moved at a “snail’s pace.”
Right at 6 a.m., when the box office was set to start selling tickets, the ticketing system suddenly went down for 45 minutes. That meant the box office staff had to write down students’ information so students could pick up their tickets later.
“It was scheduled maintenance, but that information had not made its way to our office,” Hurt explained. “But after speaking with the line monitors, we thought it was better to start rather than have everybody wait.”
The box office ended up closing one of its four windows to enter orders that were taken before the system started working.
Potash said that after seeing the incredible amount of people lined up at K-Ville before 6 a.m., he made the decision to have a snaked line at the box office so “we weren't in the way of workers.”
The snaked line made it much easier for students to cut, some said.
“In a straight line, it's obviously not that easy to cut. People will see you,” said sophomore Maya King. “In the snake formation, it was just very easy to kind of move over a foot and you'd be like 50 people ahead. That was super frustrating.”
On the line monitor’s Facebook post detailing the rules of Countdown, it stresses that students are responsible for holding their own spot in line. Line monitors would be there to maintain order.
Potash said it was tough to catch people cutting the line because those people were purposefully avoiding the line monitors’ gazes. He was disappointed with students who cut, but he said students in line were supposed to report any cutting to the line monitors. Nobody did.
While he said the line monitors would better prepare for cutting and large crowds in subsequent years, he added that there was not a whole lot they could've done this year. He said that most of the cutting was performed individually and not all at once like last year’s Carolina walk-up line.
"I think the way we handled it was actually not terrible given the circumstances,” Potash noted.
Apart from the pace of the line and cutting, three students that spoke with The Chronicle were frustrated by the lack of warning regarding how many tickets were left, so it came as a shock when students were told the tickets were sold out. By our count, there were still at least a hundred students left in the line at that point.
“It was very out of the blue that they were completely sold out, which I obviously don't know how much power [the line monitors] have over that, but people were very, very angry,” King said.
Potash said the line monitors were not told how many tickets were left on sale until they were all sold out.
"We didn't ask [the box office] throughout the process because they were also really busy, because everyone was just going at full speed," he said.
When asked why the box office didn’t warn the line monitors that they were running out of tickets, Hurt said that "people stayed in line so they could be put on the request list.” Students could get off the request list if anyone returned their tickets before Countdown.
Why was the line so long?
Many were surprised about the massive ticket line.
“I think the line was mostly long because people heard the line would be long and decided to go earlier because of that,” wrote senior Audrey Ellis. “I know a freshman whose RA told them that it's best to sleep out to get tickets when usually there are like max 50 people there before 5:30.”
First-year Emily Ma was also told to get to the line early, so she woke up at 4 a.m.
“Yeah, there were so many rumors going around that you had to wake up at 4 o'clock, 3 o'clock—these ridiculous times in order to get tickets and I know so many people who even slept over at Perkins to get them,” she said.
Another factor that potentially contributed to the size of the line was when the event happened. For the past two years, Countdown to Craziness has fallen on Family Weekend. Likely, many students were in line to get guest tickets for their visiting family members.
“You were standing in line with all your friends. It was really early, so everyone was tired,” Ma, who was able to buy a ticket, said. “You ran into so many people in line, so I definitely wouldn't say it was a bad experience.”
Some students said that students should somehow get preference over guests for Countdown tickets. Ma said she knew students who bought guest tickets and resold them to other students.
“I don’t believe that guests should get tickets before students for Countdown,” Lunn wrote. “Countdown is where the students are introduced to the team and get pumped up about the upcoming season, so I think students' attendance should be prioritized before guests.”