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Higher prices and less chaos: Behind the changes to Duke men’s basketball lines for Family Weekend tickets

Duke students braved near-freezing temperatures to secure tickets for this weekend.
Duke students braved near-freezing temperatures to secure tickets for this weekend.

One year ago, hundreds of Duke students stood in a largely unregulated line before sunrise, many leaving Krzyzewskiville empty-handed in a morning marked by chaos. 

The early morning commotion was all for tickets to 2018’s Countdown to Craziness, the unofficial debut of the 2018-19 men’s basketball team, featuring player introductions and an intersquad scrimmage. Last year’s Countdown to Craziness coincided with Duke’s Family Weekend, further bumping up demand, as students could get up to three tickets, enabling them to bring two non-Duke students to the event at $25 apiece, while student tickets remained free. Tickets sold out by 9 a.m., with many students in line for hours not receiving tickets. 

Wednesday morning marked this year’s line for the men’s basketball home event during Family Weekend, with students lining up at 4 a.m. to secure up to three tickets for Saturday’s exhibition game against Northwest Missouri State. Except this time around, ticket prices doubled to $50, remained available well into Wednesday afternoon and the chaos largely disappeared. So, what happened? The answer mostly lies in line monitors and Duke athletics staff enforcing line control policies—including erecting physical barricades—put in place due to last year’s unexpected mayhem. 

The 2018 Countdown to Craziness ticket line was largely unregulated, with rampant cutting and lack of communication defining the morning. This fall, line monitors and Duke athletics met and determined set clearer guidelines for the Family Weekend men’s basketball ticket line, hoping to resolve “unforeseen issues,” resulting in a much calmer process than in the past. 

“Last year, line monitors did not begin the process with [Duke Athletics] staff support, were not technically responsible for preventing cutting, did not use barricades when snaking the line and did not address when individuals were allowed to begin lining up for tickets, leading to some difficulties in line maintenance,” co-head line monitor Ben Succop said. 

“After reflecting on issues in that process, we came up with the model this year jointly with [Duke] Athletics that prospective students would not be allowed to enter the ticketing area to begin lining up until 4 a.m., two hours before the ticket office [opened], that the line would be snaked using barricades and that line monitors and staff both would patrol to prevent cutting.” 

Double or nothing

The price increase for tickets from $25 in 2018 to $50 in 2019 is a result of Duke applying the same percentage discount to ticket prices across events, noted Mike DeGeorge, director of sports information for the Duke men’s basketball team. 

“Traditionally, we have offered a discount to parents when a men’s basketball event occurs on [Family] Weekend,” DeGeorge wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “In each of the last two seasons, Countdown to Craziness occurred on Parents Weekend, and we offered tickets at a 43 percent discount. This year is the first time in a number of years that an exhibition game occurred on Parents Weekend. This year’s exhibition ticket price for parents is $50—roughly 40 percent off regularly priced tickets.” 

However, in an October 2016 post to K-Ville Nation, the line monitors’ Facebook group, then line monitor Delaney King advertised tickets for the men’s basketball team’s exhibition game played during 2016’s Family Weekend as being sold for $20. 

This means that students are paying 150 percent more for their extra tickets in 2019 than the last time the Blue Devils played a home exhibition game during Family Weekend (Countdown to Craziness and Family Weekend coincided in 2017 as well). 

Succop also noted that 300 student tickets remained available to purchase as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, a far cry from the near immediate sellout that occurred a year ago. The explanation for this could be attributed to a variety of factors, including the higher ticket price or the fact that Zion Williamson won’t be playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2019.

‘Why am I paying more money to be cold?’

With the physical barricades, the cutting problems were mostly solved, quieting the frustrations held by many students who waited in line for Countdown to Craziness tickets in 2018. 

“In a straight line, it's obviously not that easy to cut. People will see you,” then-sophomore Maya King told The Chronicle in 2018. “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.” 

The line changes succeeded in producing a more orderly morning, meaning that future lines for men’s basketball games during Family Weekend will mirror Wednesday’s. 

“I foresee this remaining the model for future [Family Weekend] games, barring potential adjustments made for occasions where [Family Weekend’s date] overlaps with Countdown [to Craziness],” Succop said. 

But for some students, the process that involves standing outside at 4 a.m. and paying up to $100 is not so rosy. 

“It is cold. I am cold,” junior C.J. Cruz, one of the Duke students who waited in the near-freezing temperatures for tickets early Wednesday morning, said. “Why am I paying more money to be cold?”

Bre Bradham, Evan Kolin and Gautam Sirdeshmukh contributed reporting.

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