Editor’s note: This story was last updated on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 9:45 a.m.
Student support for Saturday’s football game against rival Utah may have been the largest in school history.
But accommodating a student body of more than 30,000 with a limited number of seats in the student section continues to be a challenge for the ROC (Roar of Cougars) staff.
Thousands of BYU students took positions around the BYU campus just before 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, anxiously awaiting the social media announcement of the location of the ROC card drop. The ROC staff had 2,000 cards available for Saturday’s BYU-Utah football game for students; each card would hold a place in line for up to five people to enter the student section in the stadium.
“We gave them all away,” ROC Vice President Ryan Hernandez said. “We even turned away 300-500 kids. In terms of numbers, we were super excited to see thousands of kids get excited about the game, willing to get cards and willing to support the team.”
“We set records,” he continued. “That’s the biggest drop in history.”
However, Thursday’s card drop, a system designed to better regulate the line for the student section at popular BYU sporting events, was what some students believed to be the most chaotic card drop yet.
Seconds after the announcement was made that the passes would be handed out on the west end of campus, mobs of students sprinted across campus, through the buildings, down the stairs that connect the upper and lower campus, and across parking lots to race to the location and get the best numbered card possible.
The location was the intramural fields near the Richards Building and Indoor Practice Facility in the athletics area of campus, a location Hernandez said was approved by the university and the risk management office.
Shoes, broken flip flops, keys and even some backpacks were left behind as students fought their way through the crowds. Students funneled through the gates of the Richards Building field and stood body to body, clumped in line, some for more than an hour.
One student waiting in line fainted and was carried away by an ambulance, Hernandez confirmed. Two broken ankles, a broken nose and other injuries were also reported but not confirmed by the university.
“Systematically, we weren’t projecting 2,500 kids to come rushing down,” Hernandez said. “We knew it was going to be crazy, but it was a lot to handle. It was definitely a learning experience for us.”
Junior Jacob Barker, from Orem, Utah, said he and his friend got to the line at the same time, but because so many people were pushing and shoving, he ended up in front of her with number 964 while she got a number in the 1400s.
“I get why (the ROC) did what they did, but having 2,000 people run somewhere all at once was kind of scary,” Barker said.
Barker related the situation to fluid dynamics in physics and said narrowing off a large group of people, like what happened at the RB fields, just made people want to go faster and push harder.
Rebecca Bangerter, a junior from Centerville, Utah, said someone spotted the ROC drop location before the official announcement, which spurred a rush to the intramural fields.
“It was mass chaos,” Bangerter said. “I don’t know if it’s worth it if they keep the same system. Maybe if it was done differently, with two or four locations instead.”
Meghan Stewart, a senior from Corona, California, works at the Smith Fieldhouse and was close to the Richards Building when everyone started running.
“There were a ton of people flowing out of the tunnels,” she said. “Someone next to me tripped and fell flat on his face and no one stopped to see if he was OK. There was even a guy who jumped over the hood of a car to beat other people around him.”
Stewart ended up with card 169 and said even though the card drop was crazier than she expected, she was excited for the game because of the experience.
“I know some people are bashing it, but I thought it was a fun way to get so many people out there and get excited for the game,” Stewart said. It was a good way to get your adrenaline pumping.”
With No. 10 Wisconsin coming to Provo on Saturday, Sept. 16, ROC staff are making improvements to the card drop and line system.
“It’s going to be another huge game,” Hernandez said. “We already know we’re going to have another huge turnout for the ROC drop, so there are things we have to do to make it more systematically efficient.”