Column: Krushed

By Mike Szwaja

I am a senior at the University of Illinois. I am also a four-year basketball season ticket holder. Somehow, that meant nothing when it came time to divi-up the student Final Four tickets.

See, I’m also a four-year member of the Orange Krush, and because I’m not an “All-American” I had no chance to receive any of the approximately 250 tickets Orange Krush received from the University. And because I’m in Orange Krush, I couldn’t enter the Final Four lottery for student season ticket holders.

Let me back up. For those of you who don’t know how Krush works, here is a crash course. We raise money by the three-pointer. Donors provide us with pledges for every three-pointer the basketball team makes during the course of the season. This year, my mom’s boss gave me a $.10/3 pledge. My uncle a $.20/3 pledge. My dad a $.30/3 pledge. Say the team makes 280 three pointers. My mom’s boss owes Krush $28, my uncle $56 and my dad $84.

If those pledges total $3.00/3, you become an All-American, which means you have first dibs on floor seats for home games, first priority for the Braggin’ Rights and United Center games and, most importantly, first priority for NCAA Tournament tickets.

If you raise between $1.50 and $2.99, you are a Varsity member, which basically meant this season you received a season ticket in C-section. In the past, Varsity members filled in on the floor after All-Americans were all inside, but there were so many All-Americans this year that only a handful of Varsity members got the chance to sit on the floor.

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When the Illini sealed their trip to the Final Four, I knew I had no chance to receive a ticket through Krush. Orange Krush members with the highest money-raised totals would get the first priority on the tickets, and because I raised only $1.50/3, I would definitely not be in the top 250, which wasn’t a big deal at that point. My Orange Krush brochure told me in writing that seniority meant little and money-raised meant everything when it came to NCAA tickets.

No problem, there was always the lottery for student season ticket holders, right? As a four-year ticket holder, I figured my chances would be pretty good considering four-year ticket holders had better odds of receiving tickets in the student lottery.

Check that, one problem. Orange Krush members aren’t allowed to participate in the student lottery. Nobody ever told me that. That brochure I mentioned, it never said anything about waving my right as a student season ticket holder to enter the lottery because I would be a member of Orange Krush.

Had I not been in Krush this year, I would have bought regular student season tickets. I would have been considered a four-year student season ticket holder. I would have entered the lottery. And I probably would have received tickets because of my status as a four-year ticket holder.

That said, there were some benefits of being in Krush. My season ticket was basically free. I went to the Iowa game in Iowa City for free. I had the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Big Ten Tournament – these tickets were given away first come, first serve, not on an All-American priority system. I got a free T-shirt. And I experienced the camaraderie associated with being a Krush member.

I would have traded it all for a chance to buy Final Four tickets, and I guarantee many of the Varsity members in the same situation would share that sentiment. All we wanted was a chance to get tournament tickets, a chance to be in the lottery.

My biggest gripe is that nobody told us when we signed up to be Krush members that we wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the student lottery. Had I known that in September, I wouldn’t have joined Krush.

I asked two of the Orange Krush Chairs, Chris Owens and Wade Shimer, if they knew before the season that Krush members were exempt from the lottery. Both said they had no idea. Well, why not?

“It was a miscommunication between us and the ticket office,” Shimer said.

Owens agreed that some sort of disclaimer should have appeared in print in the Orange Krush brochure. However, when I asked both of them if a disclaimer would appear in next year’s brochure, they couldn’t make any guarantees.

“We will talk about that, and it will be a definite improvement,” Owens said.

“Getting that quote in there … it’s definitely a priority,” Shimer said.

Becoming a Krush member is a great way to guarantee you’ll get a season ticket, because not everyone who requests a ticket the old-fashioned way receives a ticket. Raising the money for Krush guarantees you a season ticket.

Shimer stressed that Krush takes into account a student’s charitable donations first and their dedication to the basketball team second. So, one way to guarantee yourself NCAA tickets is to raise money like a bandit and become an All-American. But raising three-bucks-plus per three-pointer is easier said than done.

In the end, I have a suggestion for current student season ticket holders. If you’re planning on being a Varsity member in Krush next year, and you value the chance to buy NCAA Tournament tickets above all else, don’t join Krush. Buy your tickets through the ticket office. Then take your chances in the NCAA Tournament student lottery where devotion to the team means something.

Mike Szwaja is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected].