The Barnyard to miss Big Ten tournament

The basketball student section normally sends 50 fans to the tourney.

The Barnyard chants the rouser before Minnesota played Northwestern at Williams Arena on Wednesday. The student section will not be traveling to the Big Ten tournament.

Holly Peterson

The Barnyard chants the rouser before Minnesota played Northwestern at Williams Arena on Wednesday. The student section will not be traveling to the Big Ten tournament.

Sam Kraemer

A group of about 75 students attend every home game the Gophers men’s basketball team plays — both the nonconference cupcake matchups and hardcore historical rivalries.

Each student is proud of the Gophers, evident in the dedication shown to cheers, free-throw distractions and animal costumes.

This group is called the Barnyard — the student section for the men’s basketball team — and it calls Williams Arena home.

The Barnyard has demonstrated its loyalty by accompanying the Gophers to the Big Ten tournament in past years, but the student section won’t attend this year due to changes in student pricing.

The conference amended its policy for this year’s tournament so that students can only attend sessions that feature their school’s team, which could make it tough for students planning a trip with an unknown return date.

“A few years ago, we lost on a buzzer beater to Illinois, but 40 [to] 50 people still went to the rest of the games,” said Tim Jackson, a finance and management information systems senior and vice president of the Barnyard.

The Big Ten tournament is divided into six sessions, with most pieces featuring two games. Over the last two years, every session has sold out.

If the Gophers were to lose in the first round, University of Minnesota students would no longer be able to obtain the discounted student tickets to the rest of the tournament.

All-session tickets available to the public will cost between $200 and $375 depending on seat location, according to the conference.

“We look at that as a little obnoxious for students to spend that much money plus hotels and whatnot,” Jackson said.

Members of the Barnyard and other student sections have the rare chance to interact, network and “form alliances” at the tournament, Jackson said.

Last year, Minnesota students joined Michigan and Michigan State’s student sections for the tournament’s championship game.

Though their original allegiance will always be to the Gophers, they learned their rival’s cheers, wore their T-shirts and made lasting friendships, Jackson said.

It used to be a true testament to the pride the Big Ten boasts, but that is now threatened, he said.

The Barnyard’s president, Sami Kleiner, and seven other student section representatives sent a letter to the conference voicing their disproval of the new student ticket policy, saying, “the number of students able to attend will significantly diminish.”

Though the Gophers have struggled this season, freshman Drew Paszotta said he’s still disappointed the Barnyard will not be traveling to the tournament.

“I never got to experience it, so I didn’t really know what [the conference tournament] was like,” said Paszotta, a biology, society, and environment major. “But if the Barnyard was traveling, I probably would have gone.”

Paszotta said he thinks the team could benefit from the Barnyard’s presence at the tournament.

“This tournament is their ticket to get into the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I think that our support would help them out in their last chance at it.”