By Michael Huston
Illustration by Taejun Lim
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Zona Zoo pass has done a great deal for students since it was developed in 2002, but it is still one step away from becoming a truly great student athletic program.
No one would argue that the pass isn't a good value, when for $40 you get unlimited access to every home game of every sport on campus for the full year, except men's basketball. You also get a cool T-shirt and access to special events, like pre-game tailgate parties on the UA Mall before home football games.
The biggest problem with the program, though, is that it has still not found a way to reward the most dedicated students with the most coveted tickets on campus, those for men's basketball games.
The pass has certainly given a sense of unity to student fans on campus, and Amber Harryman, Associated Students of the University of Arizona spirit director and coordinator of the Zona Zoo program said, "For the first time, students have a unified voice to athletics."
In perhaps the most satisfying example of this new "voice to athletics," ASUA worked together with the athletics department to reinstitute the student section in McKale Center, a privilege that students have not enjoyed since 1983 but have lobbied for ever since.
That means that starting this season, students will sit together in a single section occupying the entire north side of the arena from floor to ceiling.
But, it's getting into the section that remains the real problem. Even with the new weighted lottery system, if you're a senior with the maximum number of seven entries, your odds to win are still less than 40 percent.
This rebirth of the student section is a positive change to be sure, but the work of the Zona Zoo won't really be complete until it can find a way to ensure that only the most rabid fans fill its seats.
With the men's basketball team ranked nationally almost every year, and with less than 3,000 seats available to students in the arena, Zona Zoo owes it to the team to make sure that the students attending the games will create the sort of rowdy, roaring atmosphere that has come to characterize college basketball student sections at places like Oregon, Marquette and Michigan State.
As much as I hate Duke, their system is about as good as a true fan could hope for. In Durham, N.C., students spend days, even weeks, waiting in line for the opportunity to buy tickets. Duke's program ensures that only the most dedicated fans join the ranks of the infamous "Cameron Crazies."
The UA experimented with such a "lineup" system in 2002, but it was grossly mismanaged and the result was a disastrous, riotlike atmosphere.
As Harryman noted, "because of the unsafe situation and student injuries caused by the lineup in 2002, it is not likely that there will be another lineup anytime soon."
But the positive experience of so many schools with a lineup system proves that it can in fact be done safely and effectively. For instance, many of these schools use "monitors," student volunteers who manage the system to ensure it is fair and the rules are followed.
Preventing students from rioting is actually quite simple, as long as those in charge take the time to set up specific guidelines and require that they be strictly followed, lest students lose their spot in line entirely.
Instead of simply hoping that students line up in an honest and orderly fashion, Zona Zoo could set up a registry that would give students a numeric point in line. Under this system there would be no incentive for students to shove their way to the front because they would still lack a ticketing number that would be associated with their name.
Granted, developing a safe and efficient system would also require much more thought and many more regulations, but there is no doubt that it can be executed successfully if it is properly managed.
With nearly one-third of the student body purchasing Zona Zoo passes this year, a system of automatic entry into the lottery does little to reward those students who are most dedicated, and who would benefit the team the most during home games.
While I commend ASUA and Harryman for building a truly outstanding student athletic program over the last four years, the Zona Zoo must find a way to ensure that our wonderful new student section is filled only with dedicated fans before its work can really be finished.
Michael Huston is a political science sophomore who is looking for someone to buy basketball tickets from. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.