Tonight marks the end of a 42-year-old era.
If you’re not familiar with Auburn University or college basketball or All Things Cool, then you may just want to click out, move on and join me on another day. Because this is a trip that may not appeal to all. And I understand. No hard feelings. Not everyone likes corn.
Beard-Eaves Coliseum was built in the late 1960s and has served as the home court for the Auburn Tigers and standouts like Charles Barkley, Chuck and Wesley Person, Ruthie Bolton, Marquis Daniels and Doc Robinson. Tonight’s match against Mississippi State will be the last-ever game to be played in Beard-Eaves.
What you may not know is that Beard-Eaves is also the former site of quarter registration. By describing this, I am admitting that I am old enough to remember not only on-site registration, but also that I am old enough to have attended Auburn when it was on the quarter system. Which, by the way, was totally the way to go because most classes met daily and were fast-paced, and by the time you were sick of a class and/or its professor, heck, it was exam time and you were registering for the next quarter. It was a good fit for anxious people like me.
Gather ’round, children, and let me tell you about how registration used to go.
Before the quarter would begin, thousands and thousands of students would descend upon Beard-Eaves Coliseum to stand in lines. Long, sweaty lines. We stood in lines for student IDs, health cards, fees, tuition, financial aid, other official business . . . and course lines. University personnel would sit behind long folding tables with shoebox-like containers filled with unlined index cards covered in dot matrix print. Students would stand in line to pick up a card for each class, collecting them as they traveled around the concourse until they had gathered the cards needed to fill their course schedules. It was like a treasure hunt. Only more exhausting.
Sometimes things didn’t work out quite so well. Sometimes (and this is the really scary part) the lady behind the shoebox would thumb through the cardboard dividers and say, “I’m sorry, there are no more cards for Women’s Studies 201.” And then the student would stomp his/her feet and say something like, “But this is my last quarter, and I really needed it.” And then the lady would say something like, “Nobody really needs Women’s Studies.” And then she would look over the student’s shoulder and shout, “Next!” And then the student would wander off and thumb through the quarter course listing, which was printed on newsprint. (I know, you were thinking stone tablet.)
After about three hours of navigating and negotiating, students would complete the card-gathering phase of the process and prepare to call it a day as they headed to the hardwood. Most of the time, when the planets were in perfect alignment, it was a seamless process, and the final stop was brief and left you feeling a little victorious. But every now and then, you found yourself running high-lows up and down the courtside steps because you forgot to have something signed and you thought you just might die right there because it was at least 105 degrees and boy, that’s a lot of stairs.
The coliseum floor, when you finally reached it, signaled the end of the registration road. It was where a different display of shoeboxes filled with “balance due” cards stirred all sorts of anxiety because, as you may have guessed, cell phones and internet banking didn’t exist, and neither did debit cards, so calling Mom and Dad and finding something like $640 for a quarter’s worth of tuition was somewhat of a pain in the rear. So you would hop in your covered wagon and travel to your dorm or apartment and place a collect call (I’m not going to try to explain that concept here) to your parents and say, “Hey, I need something like $640. Pronto.”
So, Amy, is this your fondest memory of Beard-Eaves? Heavens, no, but it is the most vivid. Because it repeated itself three times a year.
We paid our final visit to Beard-Eaves Saturday night to watch Auburn soundly defeat LSU. While in one of the women’s restrooms, I pulled the lever on the paper towel dispenser and told the woman next to me, “Well, I guess this place has seen its day,” because I wasn’t pulling a lever, but only a metal fragment. When a building’s days are numbered, small maintenance issues go unseen. She nodded her head and said, “Yes, it’s sad. I came to Auburn when this place was being built. I saw the Stones in concert and dangled my feet off the stage. Crazy.” She dried her hands and said, “Oh, well.” (Men don’t have these conversations in restrooms.)
In the 22 years that have passed since I graduated (on the hardwood at Beard-Eaves, no less), and in the years I was in school, Beard-Eaves has sat in the shadow of Jordan-Hare and has been a reliable fixture . . . a backdrop to us. And unlike the registration days of old, Beard-Eaves will be missed.