Campout Draws Small Crowd

My, how things have changed.

The article linked above and yesterday’s “Shooting Gallery” conversation got me thinking some about the past and the topic of the campout.

I was a student at NC State from 1989 through 1993.

From a basketball perspective, these certainly were not the “glory years” about which I had increasingly dreamed as my departure for college got closer and closer with each passing day of the decade. The Wolfpack’s performance on the court grew gradually worse during my years at State as the “you can’t win and run clean program” crowd welcomed the power provided them by a constituency who could have cared less about NC State. But, despite the gradual decline in the program, I had the pleasure experiencing the following first hand:

* I saw Jim Valvano railroaded out of town.
* I saw 12,400 yellow ribbons affixed to every Wolfpacker in Reynolds Coliseum in V’s last home game as State fell one game short of a perfect home record for the year with a loss to Wake Forest.
* I saw out of conference schedules that included neat, nationally televised games against teams like DePaul and Syracuse and UConn and others.
* I saw ACC vs Big East Challenge games in Greensboro.
* I saw highly-rated Duke visit Reynolds only to be turned away (like they so often were in those years) in a game that featured a young Bryant Feggins sending an Ala Abdelnaby baseline shot about 25 rows into the stands.
* I saw Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe threaten to transfer.
* I saw Avie Lester victimized beyond reproach by a screwed-up, directionaless University and Athletics Department.
* I sat between the baskets for every single NC State Basketball game of my freshman year.
* I sat directly behind Georgia Tech’s bench (almost 15 years ago to the day) when Rodney Monroe was unstoppable and went for almost 50 points.
* I saw a skinny kid from Huntington, NY named Tom Gugliotta go off in the Pepsi Challenge in Charlotte and never slow down.
* I saw Les Robinson use a little guy named Keith ‘Mister’ Jennings at East Tennessee State to beat Jim Valvano in an early season game and then take his job a few months later.
* I saw Migjen Bakali go off from the 3-point line in a home game against Maryland that you still wouldn’t believe. (28 points in the first half?0; I saw the same Bakali set an NCAA Tournament record for three-pointers at Cole Field House against Clarence Weatherspoon and Southern Miss; I saw the same Bakali do an awful lot of drinking whenever I didn’t see him on the court.
* I saw Les Robinson wear a lot of red sweaters and do a lot of clapping followed by shaking his two fists in the air.
* I saw some a lot of bad basketball in between Les’ nice wins over Carolina.
* ….and, I sat on the first row, behind the NC State bench, for the State-Carolina game as a freshman. That would be “Group One, Line One” for all of you home gamers out there.

As I look back on those years, I conclude that having seen all of these things isn’t nearly as important as remembering all of them with the happiness createed from the overall experiences and interactive fellowship that were a part of these events. A huge majority of those fond memories were derived from nights of camping for tickets — the people that you meet in the atmosphere, the natural anticipation that builds up for the event, and the fun things that you with people that you would otherwise not meet.

Like anything in life, these experiences obviously meant more than any average experience because we had to sacrifice time, effort, convenience, and other events just to earn the right to get tickets and attend the events. We had to camp out to attend. Therefore, we had to really want it.

Life wasn’t as easy as clicking a button and printing tickets from the warmth of University Towers; but, the camping experience wasn’t only about “sacrifice.” The experiences helped students refine valuable skills that are important in life – we had to manage our time efficiently, we had to be committed to and held responsible by a group of other people, we had to learn to prioritize things, we had to be innovative in the way that we scheduled our time, and we learned the value of the balance between commitment and pay-off.

I believe that campouts created significantly more intangible value on campus than the administration who decided to abolish the system must have realized. The “Pack Pride” that grows from a large group of students committing to a similar cause (no matter what the cause) is catalyst for student development and campus pride. Additionally, camping created a centralized area where students from all over campus had the opportunity to meet students that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet. How do you value a student body that knows each other significantly better and more intimately than not? How do you value the campus heartbeat created by a camping community? How do you value the life long contacts and relationships that grow from meeting others that you would not otherwise meet and with whom you fellowship?

When I was in school, there was nothing that created a stronger bond of lasting fellowship and goodwill that stuck with the members of the freshman class throughout their years on campus. Have you been to NC State recently? Do you have a clue what the dying social dynamic is like on campus? There is no centralized social hub as Hillsborough Street continues to struggle, and Western Boulevard, “Glenwood South” and Downtown Raleigh all add “social commuting” to a campus life that already resembles more of a commuting experience than a traditional college, residential experience.

Note how I have ignored the Greek System in my essay. Why shouldn’t I? The University sure as hell has.

The reality of the situation is that camping and attending games was a rite of passage at NC State. As a freshman, it was just what you did. It was part of your DNA. As a sophomore, you probably weren’t as committed to the process because you had growing responsibilities on campus. As an upper-classman, your ability to camp and attend games continued to dissipate into other responsibilities took precedent in your life and as the more committed freshmen back-filled your spot on campus.

That social system was fine. It worked for decades. It was merit-based and accepted by generations of students who realized that the equal opportunity to get something was the key tenant to the sytem. If someone else desired tickets with greater fervor than I and they were more willing to commit to earning the tickets, then they ultimately got good tickets. Due to their commitment in the quest of getting the tickets, they also were probably more committed to screaming and yelling and supporting the Wolfpack at the game.

It was neat. It was nice. It was healthy. It was a long-term tradition that bonded every student that came through campus for decades. Ah yes….bonding and tradition. Now that is something which is in abundance at NC State (sarcasm), isn’t it?

Campus News General NCS Basketball Tradition

38 Responses to Campout Draws Small Crowd

  1. BJD95 02/01/2006 at 11:09 AM #

    Great post. Ah, the memorties. I was there from 1991-95, and saw even less good basketball than Jeff did. I did campout several times (what would campout be without scouring the campus all night, half-lit and looking for more stuff that would burn in a trash can fire?), and got in line around 4 am many other times.

    Sitting behind the Duke bench during the Pete Gaudet year was probably my highlight of good tickets I had to sacrifice for.

  2. class of '74 02/01/2006 at 11:17 AM #

    While I went to school several years prior to your time several things mentioned make me think of how much things have changed. The tickets were awarded based on alphabetical groups on differing days. Tickets were a very hot item but other than maybe UNC and Maryland nobody camped out that I recall. It was critical that you had a buddy in each alphabetical group if you wanted to go to all of the games.

    The campus growth with Centennial coming online and now with RBC it just lacks that “feeling of a cohesive campus” that I remember. And Hillsboro just ain’t the same. Maybe they have it better now, but just like you I’ll remember it just like it was with great appreciation. I know I had it awfully good back then school, sports and life.

  3. Sam '92 02/01/2006 at 11:18 AM #

    I was at state during the same period, and ’89 basketball games were the highlight of my freshman year — yes, camping out next to the tracks, sprinting for places in line, freezing cold. All of it was great. It was great because we were excited — we were excited because we felt like we could win any game; not necessarily would win, but that we *could* win. Even if it was Duke.

    As I think about the program now, that can-do feeling is what’s really missing for me. I like our chances to be a consistent 20 wins team, with tournament appearances (not bad, by the way). But whenever we play a team that is really good — I expect to lose. Maybe I’m older and cynical now? True enough, but I don’t think that’s it. The team now (and this is ultimately Herb’s responsibility) just doesn’t have the same grit. Herb’s just not a great motivator.

    Maybe it’s changing? We showed moxie against Clemson, and Wake as well — but then there’s Seton Hall, UNC and Iowa (not to mention Duke), where we wilted.

  4. Jeff 02/01/2006 at 11:44 AM #

    ^ I think Sam 92’s comments about the general feelings of the average Wolfpacker truly believing that we had a 50/50 chance to win every game (knowing that the team and the fans were going into every game with a “fight like hell attitude”) is spot on. I think that translates into crowd commitment and excitement.

    It feels to the average fan that the Athletics Department has mortgaged that for any kind of schedule that can get us close to 20 wins and into the NCAA Tournament. Who cares if we can’t consistenly compete with Top 25 opponents as long as we can build a record of perceived overall “consistency” against others?

    But, I don’t want to get off on a basketball performance discussion that is beyond the central topic of the performance’s impact on the fan commitment and environment.

  5. Alpha Wolf 02/01/2006 at 11:49 AM #

    ’80 – ’84. Guess you know how that went.

    Anyway, I often wonder how Les would have done with no recruiting restrictions. He WAS a good coach, as evidenced by his first year when he had decent players.

  6. Jeff 02/01/2006 at 12:03 PM #

    I think Les was probably a pretty decent recruiter since he was so likeable. I’m not convinced that he was savy enough or had the x & o ability to create a national program against Smith, K, Cremins, Williams, Odom, etc in the ACC.

    That team he had the first year could have competed on a much higher level with the right coach.

  7. Steve 02/01/2006 at 12:20 PM #

    My undergrad years were 85-89, and you’re right about the community-building aspect of both campouts and having an on-campus facility. One of my favorite experiences was waking up at 3:30am and leaving Bragaw with my roommate to get tickets for the Jan(?) 1987 game against Oklahoma(what a great non-conf opponent!). As we froze our butts off waiting for the ticket ladies to arrive, a mix of sleet and snow began to fall on us. When I finally got my ticket, I couldn’t move my fingers and had to ask the lady to put the ticket in my hand. Went back to a warm dorm room and slept a few more hours.

    As for the game, Oklahoma kicked our butts in the first half – bad enough for our fans to boo them back to the locker room(the nerve of those fans!). Some of the OK scrubs were laughing and booing along with the crowd. Then in the second half, we staged a furious comeback that fell short. At one point Vinny Del Negro looked at me like I was crazy. We were going nuts – I lost my voice for a few days. I can’t prove it, but I think one of the reasons we were so insane was the fact that we’d sacrificed so much to be there.

    Now that I’ve finally come to terms with the loss, it’s a great memory.

  8. WTNY 02/01/2006 at 12:23 PM #

    Fall ’83 to Spring ’87. Just missed the big fun but certainly were some good years.

    My fondest campout memory is when my roommate and I had a tent with a line tied to one of the parking meters in front on Reynolds. In the middle of the night some guys go streaking through the campout. One of them hits our line, trips and hits the pavement face and you-know-what first. I can still hear the collective groan from everyone that saw it.

    When I think of what has changed about NC State basketball since that time, more than anything else I miss Reynolds. Yes, I enjoy more bathrooms, AC, concession choices, ease of access from 40, etc. But oh, Reynolds! The sounds, the heat, the intensity, the intimacy, the quick walk from the dorm.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  9. J.R. 02/01/2006 at 12:24 PM #

    Good memories guys. I went to State a few years after you guys(96-00). I was there for the last campout, and spent many cold ass mornings deciding to skip class because the campout was just too draining. I loved it, and the rent-a-cops on State’s campus really ruined it. The university siched them on us, and nearly caused a riot. Unfortunately, I don’t remember too many wins after all the hard work for tickets. Ed Cota draining a buzzer-beater with a floater in the lane was the sharpest dagger. I also remember what a whiny baby that Tim Duncan was. He pretty much got every call, and when he didn’t, he would cry to the officials. I remember in 1 of Herb’s 1st years, he brought all the kids a truck load of pizza. Who would of thought that Herb would be a good source of munchies in college.Haha. I don’t think the kids that go to State now, are getting the whole college sports experience. Thanks for the topic guys, good memories.

  10. E.Z. 02/01/2006 at 1:01 PM #

    ’99 – ’05 (BS & MS)

    The first campout I remember was the one where there weren’t enough tickets. When they finally started to bring back a much more tame version of campout (’02?), our house got our forms in about a minute before the deadline. Came home from class they day the campout order was handed out and the guys said we didn’t get a very good spot. I wanted to see how bad so, I pulled it up online and started scrolling down. I hadn’t seen it so they came up behind me and kept telling me to scroll up. It was great to see us at the top of the list. Couldn’t believe it. Good times that year. Campout was good that year, but nothing compared to the previous one.

  11. VaWolf82 02/01/2006 at 1:24 PM #

    But whenever we play a team that is really good — I expect to lose. Maybe I’m older and cynical now? True enough, but I don’t think that’s it.

    Neither do I. I graduated in 1982, but I had the same sorts of feelings of BB with V thet you described so well…even though I was long out of school. When you watch a coach win a national championship, ruin UNC’s undefeated season in 87, along with two more trips to the Elite 8….you know you have a special coach. You know that during that last timeout at the end of the game, the team is going to leave the huddle fired up, with a great play called….and it was then up to the players to execute.

    I won’t go through what I’ve seen over the last four years….but it’s safe to say that what I’ve seen doesn’t build confidence (in me) for the present or the future. Maybe this year will be different…..

    Back to campouts:
    For the most part, we only had to campout for UNC FB tickets and UNC/Duke BB tickets. Jeff does a good job at describing the high points of camping out. The 12-hour (and longer) partying some how got left out of Jeff’s assessment. If I was a school administrator, I would have done the same thing that State’s did….just a whole lot sooner. It’s not a perfect solution….but it’s far better than what it replaced.

  12. Jim 02/01/2006 at 1:27 PM #


    What a great piece! The best thing I have read on here. JB is right on top of a big pile of the truth with all of it.

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the great “run for the barrels” tradition.

    My best campout memory (at least the best one I can repeat here) was sitting outside my tent my freshman year with my little “Watchman” TV watching us beat Duke in Cameron. Rodney (also a freshman) was wide open on a breakaway, yet pulled up and drained a 3 instead of taking the layup. IIRC that was the campout for the Louisville game — another fantastic OOC series we had back then.

  13. Jim 02/01/2006 at 1:29 PM #

    To add a bit to the football campout discussion, I camped out for almost every football game also (or at least got up and out there by 4 or so). I was in Section 5 for nearly every game. Looking at the C-F map now, it’s hard to believe that half of Section 5 was once the beginning of the student section on the East side.

  14. Mr. O 02/01/2006 at 1:37 PM #

    Looking back, who thinks it was a good idea to move to the ESA/RBC?

    I have been to two games this year, at Alabama and at Clemson, and I really enjoyed going to older “gyms” as opposed to what I got used to in Raleigh at the “arena”.

    We probably needed an updated Reynolds, but I don’t think we needed an arena like the RBC. It certainly does have its advantages, but it just doesn’t have the feel of most college basketball facilities.

  15. JeremyHyatt 02/01/2006 at 1:46 PM #

    Damn you Jeff for almost bringing a tear to my eye! Really nice piece (Class of 00).

  16. Jeff 02/01/2006 at 1:50 PM #

    I had totally fogotten about running for the barrells!! And staying up late listening to campus radio to get the call to head to Reynolds.

  17. WTNY 02/01/2006 at 1:51 PM #

    “Looking back, who thinks it was a good idea to move to the ESA/RBC?”

    From a purely $$ perspective, yes it has brought NC State more $. And yes, more folks can attend.

    But looking at the bigger picture (as discussed in this topic), I say “No.”

  18. BJD95 02/01/2006 at 2:06 PM #

    I am a fairly straight-laced guy, and I don’t think the campout chaos was ever that bad. There was lots of drunkenness, fire, and other college-level debauchery, but there was a larger ethic and civility that kept things from getting out of hand and dangerous. Maybe that changed after I left? Who knows.

    Jeff is right about Les not being able to do more with the 90-91 team. I was a senior and high school, and when we had only a so-so (based on expectations) regular season, ACCT, and 2nd round NCAA loss to an Okie State (IIRC) that we should have beaten, I begin to wonder whether Les has what it took. Looking back, that team was loaded for bear. And it accomplished basically NOTHING.

    I remeber one campout with my college drinking buddy (who made his famous “Old Fashioned Sourpatch Kids” vodka drink every campout to keep us nice and warm). We noted that the fire barrel was too far from the tent, and I asked whether we should move the tent or the fire. As college-age inebriated logic would dictate, we both wordlessly grabbed the fire barrel and tried to drag it for 3-5 seconds. Fortunately, I was wearing gloves, but it still hurt like a bitch! Good times…

  19. choppack 02/01/2006 at 2:10 PM #

    Jeff – I was there about the same time you were…And I remember listening to WKNC to see when the campout would start. All things considered, it was remarkably efficient. I agree that it really made things extra special to even get tickets to the Carolina or Duke games….there were times when those who camped out didn’t.

    Of course, I kind of look at the campout like the bicylce helmet. I didn’t wear one, but I understand why kids do now. I remember one year where it was particularly cold and some kid was passed out cold outside in jeans and flannel shirt. No huge incidents happened out there – that I can recall – but I’m sure there was a couple of very close calls. Of course w/ all of today’s modern conveniences and technology, campout would probably be less risky than when we did it.

    The RBC vs. Reynolds argument, the centralized campus/living quarters vs. Centenial Campus/apartment growth, the Hillsborough Street/Western Blvd vs. Glenwood Ave/downtown Raleigh, etc – all point to a variety of issues which have helped make campus a little less intense – at least it would appear so to me.

    The city of Raleigh and its nearby residents have always acted like my alma mater is more of a burden than a benefit. The school made a lot of choices early to reduce the intimacy and “fun-factor”.

    As far as the b’ball games – well, let’s just say that Reynolds under V was always a special place. Of course, since V was a driving force behind the ESA – even he may have missed it. (Of course, if it was designed better, the atmosphere could have been more racious.

  20. Jim 02/01/2006 at 2:13 PM #

    I’m glad we moved. As a non-student, Reynolds was a nightmare in which to attend a game. I know this is sacriledge, but I hated Reynolds from a “game experience” standpoint. There weren’t even doors on the shitters and the sightlines were horrendous for the 90% of us not between the baskets, etc, etc.

    We got (and continue to get) an unbelievably great deal with the RBC. Basically we have an NBA arena (which is not entirely a good thing obviously). But we got a sweetheart deal in a first-class, state of the art arena. I like it. We were not in a position to build anything remotely close to it on our own.

    The Ledge Lounge is a tremendous addition. That is a great new pregame tradition in the making. Much better than Mene Gene’s “clapping over your head” thing.

  21. BJD95 02/01/2006 at 2:17 PM #

    As an alum, I am selfishly glad we moved. In Reynolds, you needed to be a determined student or a real high roller (or Governor Hunt) to have good seats. And the dropoff from good was quite steep. Very few “just decent” seats.

    Another Reynolds memory was looking for Governor Hunt behind the Jesse Jones sausage sign. Whenever we sat close enough, we’ll yell “Hey, Governor!” – and he would always lean over the rail and wave. He works in my building now, and everytime I see him in the elevator, I think about that.

  22. Jim 02/01/2006 at 2:21 PM #

    In ’89 (IIRC) they combined the UNLV and UNC campouts. That was the biggest one ever as far as I know/experienced. Every unpaved square inch from the tri-towers to Pullen was covered with a tent. There were several hundred groups. I forget the final #. Anyway, many, many people who camped out didn’t get tickets to either game (the UNC ones ran out before the UNLVs did.) On the Channel 5 noon news the day of distribution they were trying to stir some shit up by interviewing disgruntled campers (mostly girls) who got no tickets. Hilarious.

  23. class of '74 02/01/2006 at 2:27 PM #

    consider for a moment if C-F and RBC didn’t exist and somehow we had a 60,000 seat stadium where the physical plant is and somehow Reynolds came back as an upgraded arena.

  24. Jeff 02/01/2006 at 2:34 PM #

    ^ Wow.

  25. Jim 02/01/2006 at 2:43 PM #

    ^^ I would envision facilities not as good as the ones we have now with almost zero parking/tailgating.

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