Before registration by Internet BYU students camped out for classes, they’ve been camping out for housing contracts for years, and ever since Jimmermania they’ve camped out for every basketball game.
More than 30 tents sit in a row outside the Marriott Center, all the way to the Victory Bell, and more are expected to be pitched for the last night of camping. Fans don’t just get sore backs, cold feet and front-row seats by sleeping on the ground for a week, they also gain new friendships.
Scott Wallace, a junior from San Diego, has been camping out for years at the Marriott Center for basketball games and has made friends with the other regulars in line.
“When you’re camping out this long you just become friends with everybody else,” he said.
David Hodges, who fits his 32-inch television into his tent, said he and his friends have been camping out ever since Jimmermania exploded.
“It’s definitely been too many times to count,” Hodges said. “We’ve been camping out since Jimmer.”
Hodges and his camping group have met many new people in line with them, even in just the first few weeks of the season.
“We’ve actually expanded our group,” Hodges said. “Earlier on in the year it was just five of us; we’ve doubled in size now.”
Tents start going up a week in advance for most basketball games and the fans have to find ways to pass the time. Some do homework and throw footballs and Frisbees. Others bring extension cords to hook up to the generators at the Marriott Center and bring televisions, PlayStations, XBoxes and movies to entertain themselves. Many said they have gotten much better at Angry Birds after playing it for hours while waiting in line. Others read their scriptures and even workout beside their tents.
Wallace described the atmosphere in line as a week-long tailgate party, with shift changes and a lot less food. Since campers cannot leave a tent unattended they must schedule shifts in line with their group to accommodate classes, work, getting food and getting out of the cold.
It’s not warm in Provo when the Cougars are playing basketball, especially at night.
“It can get really cold. If you have a space heater it’s nice and warm, but it can get freezing at times,” Wallace said.
But passionate fans said a little cold is worth sitting on the front row and camping out has become half the fun of the basketball games.
Mason Nordfelt and Preston Jackson are first in line for Thursday night’s game against Gonzaga. They said they’re excited to have gotten there first, especially since it’s their first time camping out at the Marriott Center.
“We started camping out after the St. Mary’s game,” Nordfelt said. “It didn’t feel too bad [losing to St. Mary] anymore, knowing we were first in line for the next game.”
With so many students in line the BYU Police and Marriott Center Events personnel have given students safety and conduct guidelines for camping out.
Suzanne Stratton, event manager at the Marriott Center, said the students behave well and follow the Honor Code and the safety guidelines they’ve implemented.
The students have done a fairly good job at adhering to these rules, with only a few minor incidents, usually small arguments over who was first in line. Lt. Arnold Lemmon of the BYU Police Department believes this has a lot to do with the atmosphere at BYU.
“When you take drugs and alcohol out of the mix … it takes away a lot of problems,” Lemmon said.
Lemmon said while officers aren’t assigned to cover the lines at the Marriott Center, police patrols do go by and check on campers and step in when needed.
This camping trip for BYU fans will end Thursday night as the doors to the Marriott Center open to students and the Cougars take on the Bulldogs.