- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

At 9:50 a.m. yesterday, an uneasy silence pervaded the computer lab in George Mason University’s Johnson Center as students sat poised, fingers on their mouses, waiting for the clock to strike 10.

Some looked as if they had just rolled out of bed. Some were wide awake and decked out in Patriot gear. Others were still panting after dashing across campus from classes that had just finished.

All of them set their Internet browsers to the university’s athletic Web site in hopes of snagging one of 1,200 student tickets to see the men’s NCAA Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis.

Junior Jacob Jenkins, who said he camped out 39 hours for tickets to the Sweet Sixteen game last week, vowed “there was no doubt” he would be there to see his team to the very end. He was in the computer lab by 8:45 a.m.

“I knew that everybody that lives in dorms was going to come to the computer lab” since the Internet connection is faster, he explained. To ensure he’d get a ticket, Mr. Jenkins typed his credit card and student information into open Microsoft Word documents in advance so he could quickly cut and paste them to the ticket order form once it was posted on the Web.

But like other students trying to buy the $170 tickets online, Mr. Jenkins began to panic when the clock passed 10 and the link for student tickets was nowhere to be found on the site as promised. A flurry of nervous mouse clicks could be heard as worried fans peeked over their shoulders to see whether others were having the same problem.

Sophomore Amanda Shapley pulled out a cell phone and began to call the ticket office repeatedly — to no avail.

“I was freaking out,” she said.

“Are you trying to buy tickets?” one student asked frantically.

“It’s not working,” Miss Shapley complained.

Soon at least five anxious students had cell phones glued to their ears, dialing friends to see whether they were having the same problem.

“I was like, shaking,” sophomore Felicia DeStefano confessed. “You could see everybody in the computer lab looking around saying, ‘Is something wrong with your computer or is it just mine?’”

After several long minutes of confusion and suspense, credit cards were on the table by 10:10, when the link to purchase tickets became accessible. One by one, students lined up at the printer to retrieve their confirmations, then called their friends to report the happy news: They were going to Indianapolis.

About 300 student tickets were still available as of 4:20 p.m. yesterday, according to James Meyer, director of tickets and promotions for George Mason.

“We sold probably 500 in the first hour and in the last three hours we’ve only sold maybe three or four hundred,” Mr. Meyer said.

As for the delay in making tickets available, Mr. Meyer said the information was ready, but the company that manages the school Web site dropped the ball.

“I had them on the phone at five till [10] and they still thought they could have it up by 10 a.m., but it ended up being a few minutes late,” he said.

For those who got tickets, missing class was no obstacle to a Patriot pilgrimage.

“As far as school goes, it’s about the worst time to take a road trip,” said Mr. Jenkins, who has mid-term exams on Monday but hopes to get them rescheduled. “On the road, I’m going to be studying.”

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