Fall is a busy time for sports in the bluegrass, and while there is no basketball being played yet, it is never too early for a UK fan to prep for basketball season.
Perhaps the first indication that basketball is in the air is getting Big Blue Madness tickets. The tickets are free, but they’re not easy to get.
For many UK fans, getting Big Blue Madness tickets is synonymous with going camping.
When tickets become available, this year at 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, they go quickly.
Associate Director of Media Relations for Men’s Basketball Eric Lindsey said tickets for Big Blue Madness always sell out, normally within 30 minutes to an hour.
The solution for many: Get in line for tickets as early as possible, which means days in advance.
This year, fans are allowed to begin lining up at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
UK Athletics reminded fans of the rules in a press release. Fans can bring tents, but not any sort of permanent structure. UK Athletics will provide portable restroom facilities.
Even these temporary residents on campus cannot escape the construction. Lindsey said the construction limits where campers can set up and therefore how many can be there.
For the last several years, Lindsey said, the campout has reached capacity, which means any additional campers would not be guaranteed tickets.
What is this event that motivates people to give up their comfort for several days?
Big Blue Madness, the first open practice of the season, originated at UK in 1982 as Midnight Madness.
Then head coach Joe B. Hall promoted the event as a celebration and an entertainment event. Now, Big Blue Madness is televised and has featured special guests such as Drake and former UK players now in the NBA.
“We are always thinking of new and exciting ways to make Big Blue Madness bigger and better than the year before,” Lindsey said. “What those specific plans are this year, fans will have to wait and see Oct. 13.”
Lindsey said that while UK Athletics does not have exact records, he is fairly certain that the campouts began shortly after Midnight Madness started.
UK Athletics does what it can to make the camping enjoyable for those devoted fans.
Last year, the UK Sports Network livestreamed the campout, including “Tent City Live,” which was a talk show hosted by JMI and featuring special guests and previews of the upcoming season.
While Lindsey did not specifically say “Tent City Live” will return this year, he said this year’s campout events will closely mirror events from the past.
Every year, the men’s and women’s basketball teams deliver food to the campers. Other UK athletes often stop by as well, Lindsey said.
Lindsey said each campout is “unique and special” in its own way. He said back before there were restrictions, some fans would camp for weeks in advance.
Last year, two UK fans married each other while camping out for Big Blue Madness tickets.
“But I think the most unique part is just the interaction our players have with fans every year,” Lindsey said. “There are different stories every year, but they always revolve around our players going out and spending some time with some of the most loyal fans.”
In the past, Lindsey said, players have played cornhole with the fans in addition to passing out food. Back when there were still outdoor courts nearby, the players would put on an impromptu dunk contest or play a pickup game with fans.
Lindsey said Head Coach John Calipari has added a special touch in recent years: going out to the campout and addressing the fans.
Communications sophomore Noah Robbins camped out with his roommate for tickets last year and plans to again this year.
Robbins was not a UK basketball fan before coming to UK as a student, so he was not aware of just how big basketball was here.
“The amount of people that showed up just to get a spot was insane to me,” Robbins said.
Last year, he and his roommate took turns watching the tent so neither of them had to miss classes.
Communications senior Jared Detty is another student who is ready for Big Blue Madness and the rest of basketball season.
Many who attend basketball games at Rupp Arena will recognize Detty. He is always in the front row of the eRUPPtion Zone, easily recognizable with his UK visor complete with spiky white and blue hair.
Detty said he doesn’t camp out, but finds other ways to get Big Blue Madness tickets.
“The people who camp out, I just think are crazy,” Detty said. “Especially if they are skipping important things like class and work.”
Detty said he has been attending UK Athletics events for his whole life, even before he became a student.
He called himself a die-hard, true blue fan.