Bauman is an associate athletic director for sports facilities at the University of Virginia. This past week, the Cavaliers hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels for a mens' basketball game. A Tar Heel fan, Greg Demery, scalped a second row ticket for $100. However, when Demery went to take his seat behind the Cavaliers bench, he was confronted by a security guard and director Bauman, and eventually forced to leave his seat and was relocated to a less desirable seat in the 17th row. But just what was the point for strong-arming Demery?
Was Demery's ticket a fake or reported stolen? No.
Was Demery drunk or causing a disturbance? No.
Had Demery violated a no-scalping policy? No.
Demery's one and only error was ... wearing North Carolina Tar Heel colors.
Yes, that's right, the University of Virginia practices color discrimination:
"We don't allow people in those seats to be dressed in the opposing team's apparel," Bauman said. "Because he was in that section, we moved him."
Athletic department staff members get free tickets for games, Bauman said. Since the incident, he has tracked down the staff member who received that particular ticket. The staffer had given four tickets to a friend, who sold this one to a scalper.
"We're dealing with that internally," he said.
Staff members are allowed to give away tickets they are not using, Bauman added, but "they know they are responsible for the people who sit there."
—Leah Friedman, "Troubleshooter: Tar Heel Fan Booted from Seat at UVA" (Triangle News & Observer, Jan. 14, 2011).
Seriously? The Cavaliers require fans to root for the Cavaliers in order to sit in certain seats? How ridiculously oversensitive and insecure. What if, instead of selling the ticket, the staff person had brought a friend who happened to root for the Tar Heels? Would Bauman have booted that person as well? What's next, separate concession stands and restrooms for opposing fans?
The best part of being a sports fan is to trash talk fans of other teams. Two seasons ago, I took buddy Santa Claus (an Iowa St. fan) to Husker Mecca (Memorial Stadium in Lincoln) for the CyClown-Husker game. I was able to secure first row, 50 yard-line tickets for what ended up being a debacle of a loss for the Huskers. Santa Claus was decked out in CyClown gear, strutting around and being an obnoxious yahoo, nearly getting into a half dozen fights. But nobody suggested he shouldn't be able to sit in that prime seat in the midst of the great Husker Horde. Or how about back in 2001, when roughly 40,000 Husker fans managed to take their Sea of Red show on the road to Notre Dame, where they outnumbered the home fans? Notre Dame's coaches and athletic director were embarrassed by their fans' ticket scalping, but they never suggested the Husker fans should be removed.
I don't particularly care about the legalities of Bauman's actions or the underlying policy. Legal or not, restricting fan seating areas by team, or requiring fans to root for particular teams to attend the event is simply anathema to the American sports tradition. The problem for Baumann is not with the random opposing fan getting a ticket in the home team's inner sanctum. No, Bauman's real problem is that his own fans are willing to sell prime tickets to opposing fans, something that simply doesn't happen for the truly elite sports programs:
Stealth bomber flies over Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Opposing fans will find it difficult to scalp a ticket outside the two
designated visiting fan sections (southwest corner, upper right of photo).
(Order this and other full-size official Husker photos HERE).
The best method for keeping opposing fans out of your prime seats is to put a competitive team on the floor or field. Bauman's silly efforts to enforce fan segregation simply reflect the insecurities of a second-rate athletic program.