Saturated with Kansas State sports trivia, one senior steps into line among a self-made, yet elite group of men’s basketball fans. Their dedication goes beyond wanting prime seats for the University of Kansas matchup. Their front row ICAT seats are earned through hours spent arriving early to the southeast entrance of Bramlage Coliseum.
“Keeping track of sports is something I really enjoy, but I don’t halfway be a fan,” said Owen Dahm, senior in biochemistry, who began sitting front row last year.
Another super fan, Andrew Foerster, graduate student in civil engineering, used to have friends save him a seat in the ICAT section as a freshman five years ago and gets nervous if he waits too long before standing in line prior to matchups.
The Kansas State men’s basketball team dropped four places in the week five rankings—from No. 12 to No. 16—after suffering its first loss last Saturday. Even so, the Wildcats are easily among the top 25 teams this season.
How early does a student arrive to regularly score these seats?
“We’ve known a general timeline of when we need to be there to be the first ones in line for every game,” Foerster said. “But this year’s there’s the wild card of the team being a lot better than they have been in the past.”
Dahm and his friends shoot for two hours prior to tipoff, except for when K-State plays the Jayhawks—then they get there early.
“I think last year we went at 8 a.m.,” Dahm said of the rivalry game. “Some of the guys we sit with front row every time, they did get there at 6, which was insane.”
One of them was Foerster, who plans to wait with friends at Jardine so he can race onto the property and potentially be first in line on February 5, 2019.
“Camping is still allowed beginning at 6 a.m. each game day,” Jim Muller, director of security for Bramlage Coliseum, said.
A chance to be close to the action with the ability to heckle opposing coaches and players attracts these front runner students to the beginning of the lines.
Non-conference games earlier in the season require less time in the cold, Foerster said, but Big 12 play will likely attract larger crowds.
Foerster and roommate Jacob Burrow carry the extra pressure of maintaining another tradition. Student-made signs, encouraging the crowd to respond “Who’s he?” or “Go Home!” must be brought to each game to continue the pre-game tradition.
“We became really good friends with the guys that had them before us,” Foerster said. “We’d always get there early to wait in line before the gates open to go in, so they saw us there.”
When the previous sign holders graduated, they passed them down to Foerster and Burrow.
“We just moved down a row,” Foerster said. “I sat second row for, I think, three years in the same spot on the left side, and then last year we moved down to front row on the right side.”
Dahm, currently on the left side of the front row, gives another example of how their seats have led to new relationships.
“We know the head of security,” Dahm said. “He talks to us all the time because he knows and recognizes that we all sit front row at all the games, and whenever one of us isn’t there, he’s concerned. We’ll hear about it next game, ‘Hey, where were you?'”
“All in all we have about 28 kids consistently on the first rows of section 19 and 20,” Muller said. “Those groups are the pulse of the student section. I communicate with them each game to see what the student section mood is and ask their opinions on our policies and communication with them. They are my focus group.”
Dahm said expectations for student behavior are important for those so close to the court.
“Because we sit there every time and people know us, we wouldn’t want to get kicked out because it would be pretty easy for them to tell who we are,” Dahm said. “If we did something bad enough to get us kicked out of one game, we’d be marked for other games.”
“They know each other and in turn I try to get to know them, and encourage my staff to get to know them as well,” Muller said.
Both Dahm and Foerster said their groups of friends still take advantage of their shouting distance but try to do so with style.
“My personal favorite is when we all yell things at the team when they’re shooting free throws, and we try and yell uninsulting insults,” Dahm said. “So things like, ‘Your grandma’s candles are bad,’ or ‘Your haircut is poor,’ just things that would not be offensive in any way but are just strange.”
Regular ticket holders with courtside seats sometimes laugh at remarks made by the front row.
“Providing that— one, intensity, but two, respect— really matters,” Dahm said. “Of course, sometimes we yell at the referees, but you can’t be perfect.”
Foerster is not discouraged by the Wildcats’ imperfect 83-71 loss against Marquette last Saturday.
“I’m excited to see what we do against some better competition, and I’m excited to see how much the draw becomes for fans and alumni to come back and how full Bramlage is going to get this year,” Foerster said.
One thing is for sure, these men will be ready to go on the front row when K-State returns to Bramlage Colisuem for a Dec. 15 matchup against Georgia State.