Roar of complaints: BYU students, fans outraged over new ROC pass system

It’s no secret BYU fans are among the most passionate in the country. When that passion is stifled, however, things tend to get noisy.

Such was the case Tuesday morning as BYU’s official student section, the ROC, announced changes regarding student ROC passes for the upcoming athletic season.

The new changes included a $50 price increase to $200 for each individual pass and replacing the popular non-BYU student guest pass with a non-transferrable spousal pass for $275.

Additionally, the ROC eliminated the traditional line of students waiting to enter football and men’s basketball games together in favor of a randomized lottery to determine entry times, claiming the removal of the line system would elevate the game day experience so students could “soak up the pregame festivities.”

Simply put, Cougar nation was furious.

“Waiting in the ROC line is a core BYU experience that a lot of students actually love, no matter how wild and crazy it gets sometimes,” BYU student Annie Christofferson said. “It adds to the hype!”

“I buy the ROC pass so I can go to the games, not for the pregame activities,” fellow student Robert Whitworth said. “I couldn’t care less what goes on before the game as long as I get into the game.”

Fans flooded the ROC Instagram comment section to voice their displeasure, even creating an online petition to protest the new system and demand change from the ROC. The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than three hours and now has nearly 3,000.

“We knew with any change there would be pushback,” ROC President Eden Blaser said. “We’re so blessed to have such a passionate fanbase and student section that are willing to express their opinions because that’s when we can become the best student section. We were expecting (pushback), definitely not on this scale, but we appreciate it.”

The ROC’s announcement regarding the new system led fans to believe that they may be unable to attend certain events due to the system’s lottery aspect and details stating that purchasing a ROC pass would not automatically guarantee entry for students.

That did not go over well.

“It’s kind of messed up that having a ROC pass won’t guarantee admission,” BYU student Nash Dewsnup said. “If I’m going to spend all that money on a pass, I want to be sure that I’ll have a spot in the student section. The idea that I could pay so much for a ROC pass and then not even be able to go to a men’s basketball or football game because admission is chosen randomly from the people who requested a ticket seems very disrespectful. It comes across as very greedy and feels like an extremely low effort solution to the problem.”

“Waiting in line and building anticipation for the game is the student section experience,” Ridge Williams said. “In addition, as someone who has not missed a football or men’s basketball game since enrolling, it feels like my willingness to wait in line and my efforts in doing so aren’t rewarded accordingly. Losing out on good seats or even entry as a whole is a slap in the face to students who consistently show up.”

Blaser maintained students would still have the same odds of entry to games this season with the new system as they did in years past and that there should be no reason to panic. “We just anticipate that there will be more demand just because we’re heading into the Big 12, but we anticipate that everyone will be getting into almost every game, if not all of them.”

The randomized lottery would put every individual pass holder in different groups to enter together at an assigned time, although without taking into account spouses, families or friend groups wanting to sit together. Blaser said students would still be able to enter games in their own desired groups as long as everyone moved back into the latest time group, but fans were still unhappy with the thought of sacrificing better seats just to sit with their friends.

“I think they’ve taken the fun out of going to football games,” Clara Kohlbacher said of the ROC. “I’m basically paying to enter a lottery in which I’m not going to get a good seat or be with my friends. I was planning on showing up a day early to the Oklahoma game, but now I might not even be able to go?”

“This new format only benefits the people who don’t come to games with friends,” Cole Bowen said. “I am not thrilled that I could be in this first entry group and my wife be in entry group 10. I don’t know how many groups there will be, but the more there are the more upset I will be. I have fully lost faith in the ROC board and don’t know if they can salvage their reputation after this.”

A main goal of the changes was University administration’s desire to prevent students from camping, with past incidents and injuries moving the school to push for increased safety measures leading up to sporting events. While camping was technically banned over the past two seasons, students still found loopholes to get around the ban due to the line system, resulting in Tuesday’s announced changes to eradicate the problem once and for all.

Although the camping ban is solely to protect students, many were still bothered, viewing camping out as a rite of passage at BYU and one of the more unique aspects of the college experience in Provo.

“I’m going to be a freshman at BYU this year and have been a BYU fan since I was born. Ever since I can remember, I would see the ROC camping out for games outside LaVell Edwards stadium and the Marriott Center and would say to myself, ‘that’s going to be me someday,'” Nathan Wall said. “As I heard the news of this new system I wasn’t only devastated, (but) I also felt betrayed. If I buy a ROC pass and put in the time and effort to go camp out, I deserve to attend the game and so does any other student who pays for a ROC pass and camps out. Camping out for games is a BYU tradition and I don’t see why joining the Big 12 changes that.”

Students were quick to point fingers at ROC leadership for “betraying” them with the new system, sharing their skepticism that ROC board members would not be bound to the same system as regular students.

“The ROC is going to raise the price while saying there’s a chance we can’t even go to the most exciting games? Let me guess, all the ROC board people don’t have to worry about that,” senior Robert Gordon said.

Added a student who wished to remain anonymous: “People have already accused the ROC board of sneaking in friends to the front row, picking favorites and not creating a fair system for students. This system just makes that even worse. The ROC board will reserve the first two rows for themselves and whoever they want. The perception of the board on campus is that they don’t listen to feedback and dismiss any criticism that comes their way.”

Blaser acknowledged the widespread frustration among fans but emphasized the ROC board’s intention to advocate for students and their best interests rather than oppose them. “With a lot of these decisions … it’s (the BYU administration), and we are there in those meetings to convey what we think the students want. That doesn’t always align with the end result, but we’re doing our best to advocate for the students.

“We loving hearing people’s opinions and are grateful for the feedback that we’ve received, but when it goes to a point where people are hating students they’ve never met before, that’s not OK.”

The ROC quickly issued a statement through social media following the initial backlash on Tuesday and invited select groups of students to meet with administration on campus to discuss their opinions on the matter.

“We have met with students … so there could potentially be something changing,” Blaser said. “Based on the feedback that we have received, we are looking for ways to better the experience for everyone. Be patient, we are listening.”

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