When camping actually meant camping

Posted on Nov 19, 2013 in Alumni News, Campus News, and News

This is a guest post by Curtis Marsh, j’92, director of KU Info and avid Jayhawk basketball fan. Curtis shares what camping out for basketball seats was like in the early days of the KU tradition. Students today might be surprised at the differences between then and now.

My wife proudly sports a luggage tag that reads, “I love not camping.” That may be the sentiment of many current and past students when it comes to seats at the KU men’s basketball games. Camping in many ways is a necessary evil, and none would argue it is a perfect system. But it remains a large and exciting component of the student section experience.   I was part of the camping experience in its infancy, and keep close tabs on its current state. It could be the subject of a full sociological research study!

Camping began during the Larry Brown era. I became a student during Coach Brown’s last year (yes, the national championship year). Camping picked up significantly during the first few years of the Roy Williams era, but it looked markedly different than it does today. The big difference?   We camped. In tents, overnight. Even for games in January and February.

I will stop short of claiming we got to the Field House by trudging barefoot through the snow, uphill both ways. But seriously, we camped overnight! Because of that, we were fortunate to have smaller numbers of camping groups. These days, there are between 50 and 200 groups that line up two hours before tipoff. We had perhaps 20 to 30, and the number of groups willing to stay overnight for the most coveted seats was never more than a dozen.

We also benefited from limited competition. The most hardcore camping groups did not want the same seating areas. One or two groups wanted to sit behind the bench, one or two under the south basket and two or three under the north. When it came time to charge the seating area, we laid out on the benches, set down newspaper pages–we saved seats like bench hogs. We thought it was our right, having slept in the cold for those seats.

Mayhem   eventually gave way to common sense. In the early 90s, Kansas Athletics staff members began stringing extension cords for us to prevent hypothermia. We brought heaters and electric blankets–and Nintendos and stereos. Staff members would arrive at work some mornings to find blown fuses.   That was when they banned camping: “Please leave when the building shuts down for the night, and return when we reopen in the morning.”

The rest is history, best chronicled by a current student. Camping for games is a badge of honor, regardless of how it occurs. For many reasons we can claim the best game day experience in the country–whether it includes a collection of tents outside Allen or 2,000 students congregating at 6 a.m. for a lottery to get tickets to the KU vs. Pittsburg State exhibition game.

Student Section in Allen Fieldhouse | www.kualumni.org

The student section in Allen Fieldhouse in the early 1990’s looked a lot different than the current-day student section.

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