The madness before Madness: fight for the first campsite


Hundreds of fans line up with tents for Big Blue Madness tickets on 9/28/11 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Quianna Lige

At the spot outside Memorial Coliseum, beside the Adolph Rupp sign and where the sidewalk turns into the Coliseum entrance, is a metal pole and a white line in the grass. That spot, a coveted spot, is first in the line to get Big Blue Madness tickets. Wednesday morning, it was a contended spot, as three men each claimed to be the first one there. Chris Couch did not get the first spot.

He camped out for the campout, setting up his equipment across the street from Memorial at 8 p.m. Tuesday. In the morning rush for real estate, Couch said he was the first to the pole.

“I was the first one there and was holding on to the pole,” Couch said. “When everyone started rushing in, I got pushed back. I even had a National Guard guy tell me he saw me there first.”

But then there’s Rob Beckett. He, too, did not get the first spot, although he thinks he did.

“I was the first one in line,” Beckett said. “Then this guy bumrushed me, stood on the line and said his daughter was here the whole time.”

Then there’s Dallas Hoskins. He did get the first spot, which was “fair,” he said, because he was the first one to the spot.

“We know who was here first,” Hoskins said. “My daughter ran here and stood on the white line, and I’m glad she did. You can’t just grab the pole.”


Who really knows if Couch was the first one there. A lot of many claims, but not enough evidence. The UK staff and policemen in charge of getting things sorted out could do little more than tell them to sort it out among themselves – which, to Couch, is the problem.

“What’s the point of them being here if they can’t solve problems,” Couch said.

However, Couch was definitively the first to give up his stake to the first spot. He ended up grabbing a spot in row two, which he estimated would leave about 80 tickets in front of him.

“I’m not pleased with it,” Couch said. “I deserve a little better. I wasn’t like the others. I was just trying to explain myself. The ones throwing fits are the ones getting their way. Like two-year-olds.”

That left Beckett and Hoskins vying for the first spot. Hoskins had his tent in place, straddling the white line that designated the allowed area for tents, saying he had been pushed out of the first spot a year earlier and wasn’t “moving for anything” this time. Beckett placed his tent on the ground beside Hoskins’ in between the two lines of tents. The two bantered back and forth, calling over UK staffers to hear their cases. At one point, Beckett cursed at Hoskins for not trying to work with him to create space. “That first hour, the adrenaline’s flying, nobody has slept,” Beckett said. “All the emotions are pouring out.”

Beckett was eventually told his tent was not in a permissible area and was asked to move. He told Hoskins “what goes around comes around” – to which Hoskins replied, “Is that a threat?” – and moved back across the street.

“There’s too many tents in this small area,” said Roger Long, who had a the third tent in line. “People are going to fight. It’s stupid. You’re still getting tickets. People don’t use their common sense.”

Beckett’s departure left Hoskins as the first man in line – by design. He said ever since he sat in the nosebleeds at Madness four years ago, he tries to get a better spot each year. Three years ago, he was about seven rows up. Last year, he was in the second row. This year, he drove around Memorial Coliseum in the weeks before the campout, scouting out where UK staffers were painting the lines for the areas.

“It happened 99 percent how I said it would,” Hoskins said.

Which gave him the first spot in line for ticket pickup on Saturday morning. He’ll be row AA. First pick.

“I’ve achieved my goal,” Hoskins said.


About two hours after the initial rush, Hoskins and Beckett had worked out their differences, and worked out a deal. Beckett would be able to get in line with Haskins when the vouchers for ticket position are passed out Friday. Hoskins said it was done in recognition that Beckett was “one of the first” people in line.

“We’re grown men,” Hoskins told Beckett, standing feet away from the start of the line. “We were just kids for a while.”

The campout is 72 hours long. But there’s something about that first hour, and that first spot, that creates chaos.

“The people trying for that first spot are way too greedy,” said UK student Brandon Thomas, who went the conservative route and landed a spot in lane 3. “And last year, the cops walked everyone across the street. This year, everyone took off. I saw a kid faceplant trying to run over.”

Hoskins said he knew the source of the madness.

“We know where the madness came from,” Hoskins said. “Go ahead and add chaos on there, too. A lot of people – you just lose your mind.”

Hoskins said the first spot is like a title, something that “everyone wants to be.” It can symbolize being the most dedicated fan in a crowd full of them, with the added benefit of getting the best seats in Rupp Arena for season’s kickoff. Combined with little to no sleep and a mad rush in the Lexington darkness, the controversies flourish before everyone settles into a routine.

“Everybody hates each other the first hour,” Beckett said. “But it’s a nice atmosphere the rest of the time.”