Sampson wants meeting with AD to talk student seating

IU one of few schools that lacks student section

Rifts between students and alumni have the campus talking about "old people" and whether they are seated or standing.

Tensions have run high at Assembly Hall. The house that fiery former men's basketball coach Bob Knight built features scattered student seating, maybe the only of its kind at major programs without large dedicated student cheering blocs.

That tension erupted at IU's most recent duo of home games. At home against Purdue and Iowa, students chanted "Stand up, old people," stemming from a scorn for cross-armed, seated alums. Alumni showed only little disdain for the cheers, and have largely followed their juniors' orders.

Sophomore Beau Dunfee says he started the chant with his friends, frustrated that alumni sat during free-throw attempts by the Boilermakers, instead of attempting to disrupt the player's concentration.

"We want our seats back," he said in a e-mail. " We want to be all the way around the court too, students should be the only people in the bleachers and courtside. Just like Duke."

But the chafing for a designated courtside student cheering section -- like that of Michigan State, Illinois, Duke or, really, any major program -- predates current undergrads. Student demands range from reducing prices to overhaul, introducing the idea of merit-based seating.

Men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson said Thursday student seating concentrated near the court provides his team a greater advantage. He said a student section was as necessary as wearing a coat in below-freezing weather.

"I'd like to see the students in a concentrated area, instead of some over here and some over there," he said. "And that's something I'd like to talk to (Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan) and the administrators about when the season's over.

Even without "krush" or "crazies," fans the world over seem to fear Hoosier hysteria. An ESPN poll showed readers voted IU's students' spirit fourth among all universities, behind only Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, and ahead of Wisconsin and Michigan State. Fellow Hoosier-state schools Butler and Valparaiso made the short list at 13th and 14th, respectively.

One reason for opponent fear could be the amount of student seating at each game: 8,000 -- more seats than are given to any other Big Ten school's students. Sampson said students should be thankful for the number of seats. But Alumni complain that students don't arrive to their plethora of seats on time, detracting from the game experience.

Dunfee argues the scattered seating disinterests students. He prescribes changes similar to Sampson's to create what he calls an intimidating atmosphere for opponents.

"When it comes to a student section it is quality over quantity," he said. "When my friends and I see that we have 10 games in the balcony we don't really want to go to the game, much less show up on time."

He calls for a student section that wraps around the basket, at least five rows deep, available on a first-come basis, with coordinated cheers organized by an IU club.

A student clash with administration over ticketing and seating at basketball games is nothing new at IU.

A $30 campus-wide athletics fee imposed upon students from 2004 to 2006 stirred the beehive of debt-saddled students. The recent rescinding of that fee was well met, but now complicates student-alumni relations at games. To gain back their $30 each year, students lost 500 student seats at each home basketball contest this year. The administration expects to earn an extra $260,000 on top of the more than-$1 million they collected each year from the fee.

Many athletic departments around the country rely on student money for support.

And, complicating matters, IU students might be handcuffing the athletics officials. Student ticket prices, though raised this year, don't compete with what alumni pay. The department needs that extra money -- either from alumni tickets or student fees -- because IU football isn't making enough money to erase a decade and a half of losses adding up to $9 million in total debt. Most schools rely primarily on football and somewhat on basketball for all athletics revenue.

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