They waited in long lines, they took any seat they could get - even next to Tar Heel fans, and some University of Utah supporters were turned away without a look at Saturday's victory over top-ranked North Carolina.
But they weren't in San Antonio, site of the NCAA Final Four.They were in Salt Lake City, where any place with a clear view of a TV screen was a good place to be.
No matter where they went - from Lumpy's Social Club to Iggy's Sports Grill to Port O' Call - many Ute fans found the best seat in the house was already taken, and had been for hours, even days.
Across the Salt Lake Valley, Utah backers crowded into sports bars, restaurants, hotel lounges, even the governor's mansion to support their team - and each other - as the Utes pursued and secured a spot in the NCAA's ultimate game.
Wherever they were, even pressed against the Port O' Call's windows looking in, Ute fans had plenty to celebrate Saturday as Utah took a big lead early and held on at the finish to beat the Tar Heels, 65-59.
As the final seconds ticked off, a red-clad bartender jumped atop the bar at Iggy's, madly waving a Utah towel as the capacity crowd of 229 - probably more - erupted in a deafening roar. Anyone with a North Carolina jersey, and there were a few, searched for an exit.
"Never a doubt," said a jubilant Matt Brown, a Utah student who couldn't stand still even after the win was assured. "Maybe now the nation will give us the respect we deserve.
"It'll be sweet to beat Kentucky. It's payback time."
Monday night's national championship game against the Wildcats will give the Utes a chance for revenge (Kentucky has eliminated the Utes from the NCAA tournament three of the past five years), and local merchants a chance to make a sweet profit once again.
Just off Highland Drive at Lumpy's, where former U. athletes not only congregate but also work, every table in the house was reserved by Wednesday. It was standing-room-only as Kentucky played Stanford, and Lumpy's was filled to its capacity of 280 long before the Utes and Tar Heels tipped off.
"For Ute fans, this is the only place to come," said former Ute tailback Pierre Jones, who watched the game from ground zero - the table centered in front of the big screen.
Upstairs, Roland Marquez was comparing the day with some of the more significant moments in human history.
"Being a Ute fan all my life, this is the greatest thing that's ever happened," he said. "It's heaven. Almost."
Officially, Brigham Young University fans aren't allowed inside Lumpy's. The color blue is forbidden. But Cliff Hudson, a former WAC triple jump champion for the Cougars, managed to sneak in by wearing a red Ute shirt. And he really was pulling for Utah.
Wouldn't his former BYU classmates be upset if they knew?
"Heck yeah," Hudson said. "They'd be mad, but they'd understand. I wouldn't root for (the Utes) during the regular season."
Port O' Call, downtown on 400 South, filled to its capacity of 499 just after the game began. No reservations were taken. Those with the best seats came in before noon.
"This is very important," said Gary Corkins, one of the early arrivals.
A few blocks away at Iggy's, more than 200 rabid Ute fans and about a dozen Tar Heel rooters shared the experience. Two hundred more people had been turned away by halftime.
Dan Jackson had a great seat at the bar at Iggy's. The only problem was Jewelya Spencer kept hitting him on the back and shoulders every time the Utes scored. That's because Jackson, who's stationed at Hill Air Force, was pulling for North Carolina.
"I want him to feel every point we make," said Spencer, who made a point of harassing the courageous Tar Heel fans who immersed themselves in the sea of red.
Spencer made a bet with Greensboro, N.C., resident Tom McGlynn, who is working here for a few weeks. If the Utes won, McGlynn would have to give his North Carolina T-shirt to Spencer. If the Tar Heels won, Spencer promised a "passionate kiss." Since McGlynn is married, it's probably a good thing the Tar Heels went down.
McGlynn, fellow UNC fan Ron Clark and two other North Carolina supporters were seated at the same table with several Utah graduates, including Michelle Remington and Aubrey Densley.
At first, Remington and Densley weren't too happy about sharing their space with "the Tar Heel people." They made McGlynn and Clark put a sign on the table saying, "We're not with them," so Remington and Densley wouldn't be mistaken for Carolinians. McGlynn sweetened the deal by buying dessert for the two ladies.
After the game, everyone at the mixed table hugged goodbye. Then McGlynn went to find Spencer and make good on his promise to give up his shirt. Fortunately, he had another shirt on underneath.
Spencer undoubtedly will be back Monday, looking for a Kentucky fan wearing another blue shirt, preferably a more expensive sweatshirt or sweater.
And hundreds of other Utah fans will be out in force, although many will do a better job of planning ahead.