Kansas Athletics will be examining its admittance procedure to future Late Night in the Phog events after many fans complained about a lack of crowd control, line cutting and mobbing at the entrance of Allen Fieldhouse on Friday.
On Saturday, associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said KU Athletics will “examine all our protocols regarding Late Night and talk about what things we may need to change and how to change them.”
Considerable hype preceded this year’s Late Night event, which included the KU introduction of nation’s top basketball recruit, Andrew Wiggins. All day Friday, photos circulated on social media of long, winding lines and fans who had camped overnight to secure a decent spot in line to the free event.
But by the time doors opened at 5:30 p.m., fans began to report frequent cutting in line and a rush to the front entrance.
Once the building’s 16,300 seats were filled, doors closed and an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 fans were turned away. That thousands were unable to be admitted was not unexpected. At issue, fans said, was lack of crowd control.
Traci and Dwight Bennett traveled from Derby to meet their daughter, Amber Hess, of Lenexa, on Friday and secured a spot in line at around 11:45 a.m., Traci Bennett said.
“Absolutely no one was watching from the university for any crowd control,” Bennett said. “We didn’t see any security outside and nobody made sure people stayed in line.”
At one point, Bennett said, what appeared to be students began filing in front of her family, “sometimes 20 to 30 at a time.”
Once the doors opened for a brief period of time, Bennett described a mad dash to the fieldhouse with rows of people piling toward the front of the line and becoming “packed like sardines” once the doors were closed. Fights broke out and, at one point, members of one family threatened to harm another, Bennett said.
Marchiony said Kansas Athletics used cattle guards to control the crowd, as had been procedure in years past, but Bennett — in addition to numerous people writing on Facebook and Twitter — did not recall seeing any university officials or security outside the fieldhouse.
“It was just mad,” she said, later adding “there was absolutely no security.”
Sarah Schneider, a junior at KU from Mulvane, said crowd control was less organized this year than in previous years. Last year, tickets were passed out to those waiting in line about 30 minutes to an hour before the doors opened, she said. But this year tickets weren't handed out until just as the doors opened.
"There was just one girl handing out tickets," Schneider said. "She looked kind of afraid because so many people were running at her."
Students often use camping groups, which require only one person from a group as large as 30 to be in line. Campers from Schneider's group had been in line since 6 a.m., but when she got there at 4 p.m. she said the lines were beginning to merge together. When the doors opened she said the large crowd began rushing in all at once.
"We started running too because we didn't want to be left behind," she said. "I had to hold on to my friend's shirt or I would have been lost from the crowd I was going with."
Responding to a volley of complaints via its Twitter account Friday night, the athletics department seemed to blame the behavior of the fans.
“It’s a shame that some fans didn’t follow protocol and ruined the experience for others, again, we’ll do our best to improve,” @KUAthletics tweeted.
Marchiony said KU Athletics will examine whether offering general admission to Late Night is the appropriate way to do it going forward.
“Last night certainly served as an impetus to examine all the protocols related to Late Night, there’s no question about that,” Marchiony said. “We don’t want to change the spirit and the atmosphere of what Late Night has been, but we do have to consider fans’ behavior and safety and the general fan experience.”
Luke Ranker contributed to this story.