It was the night before classes and everyone was buzzing with anticipation at the beginning of the spring semester. The last moments of absolute freedom before getting back on the academic chain gang were slowly slipping away.
The basketball game seemed like the perfect way to spend a last homework-free evening.
Or, then again, maybe it wasn't.
At Tuesday night's game against Florida State, a fair share of students were turned away at the gate by game officials.
Even a half hour before the game began, officials stopped allowing students inside.
Second-year College student Elizabeth Melton thought for sure she'd be able to get in, but when she got to U-Hall, she realized it wasn't meant to be.
"They put up a sign saying they were turning away students, and at that point students were just walking away," Melton said.
"Scalpers were selling tickets, though," she said.
Even at 8:30, however, students still were trying to get in - and a steady stream of dejected students flowed out of U-Hall's doors, unable to find seats.
Assistant ticket manager Taz Carrington said the seating capacity in the student section is limited to 2,700. The entire hall seats 8,457 people. He said that once the student section is full, ushers turn away additional students - even if seating in the season ticket holders' sections is available.
So, even though empty seats were checkered throughout the audience, students exceeding the cutoff amount got shut out.
"It's just a policy issue," Carrington said, explaining that officials never let more than the maximum number of students into U-Hall.
But the athletic ticket office announced yesterday that public tickets will not be sold for the next five home men's basketball games because of increased student demand, starting Saturday against Missouri.
In the past, the ticket office even sold the student seats away as general admission tickets, but only when turnouts were expected to be low. The ticket office decides whether to sell seats in the student section by looking at factors from the past three years of attendance, Carrington said.
Games over break, he said, typically draw few students and the office often sells more seats to the public then.
"But we usually err on the side of the students," Carrington added.
"Last year, we held 900 seats for the students but only 300 students showed up" for the Georgia Tech game, which was held during Winter Break.
While he said the number of students attending basketball is increasing, the ticket office has no intention of expanding student seating, Carrington said .
Plans for a new arena are under consideration, but it is not because of increased student demand for seats.
"It's just because the facility is antiquated," said Carrington.
In August 1998, the facility failed an inspection by structural engineers.
Also, unless the demand for student seating skyrockets, the new arena won't be built for a number of years, said Carrington.
At Duke, however, a school known for its rabid basketball fans, attendance takes on a completely new dimension.
According to Mitch Moser, Business Manager at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, 1,500 seats located at the lower portion of the arena, closest to the floor, are reserved for undergraduate students in Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. These students are such avid basketball fans that they sometimes camp out up to two weeks prior to some basketball games, Moser said. Approximately 40 to 50 tents are set up in the area around the stadium, nicknamed Krzyzewski-ville after the Duke men's coach.
Duke's student government officials keep track of people in the tents, making sure those who arrive earliest get seats.
But season ticket holders' seats are never given up to students, Moser said.
"But it all depends on what game it is," he added, explaining that, like here at the University, some games are sparsely attended.
So the only consolation Carrington could offer students turned away from the basketball game was pragmatic, yet not conciliatory: "They have to just show up earlier."
While many students were turned away at the door, others did not even try to go to the game because they heard officials would let no more students inside the hall.
"I was going to go but I just didn't make the effort because someone told me that they weren't letting any more people in," said first-year Engineering student Jen Ramirez.
Ramirez said she is an avid University basketball fan and was disappointed she was not able to cheer on the players.
"I think so much momentum of the team rests in the stands. Our support would maybe push them to make a couple extra three-pointers," she said.