Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon honored to live on 'the Range'

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Athletic department officials whisked Tony Bennett away for a tour of the University of Virginia during his interview for the head-coaching job when they came to a pause in front of the iconic Rotunda.

It wasn't the beauty of the structure that captured their attention.

"All of a sudden, we saw two or three college students, they had their bathrobes on and were carrying their little soap and shampoo," Bennett recalled. "We were like, 'What in the world?' They explained to us that when you live on the Lawn, this is the deal."

It's a flashback to life in the 1800s, when Thomas Jefferson first designed the school's original campus, or grounds, as they are called in the UVA vernacular. Needless to say, central plumbing didn't exist.

The students Bennett spotted in their robes can be seen on a daily basis. Rain, sleet, snow, they have to leave their rooms and go outside to walk to the bathroom, where they scan their student identification cards to open the door.

This is what Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon signed up for, or was chosen for, really. Only seniors, or fourth-year students as they're called at Virginia, are chosen to live on the Lawn. Graduate students, like Brogdon, are selected for the Range, which runs parallel to the rooms on the Lawn.

Not many basketball players, especially those with skills like Brogdon, have lived on the Lawn or Range.

"There's a process in which you're picked anonymously, you submit an application and you're picked just based on your extra curriculars and what you've accomplished," Brogdon said. "At the end of the day, only about maybe 70 or 80 people are picked out of a couple hundred applications."

Jefferson wanted faculty and students to be able to interact outside of the classroom. Professors and deans stay in one of several Pavilions that are interspersed between the 54 rooms on the Lawn.

Senior walk-on Caid Kirven has a room on the Lawn. Brogdon stays in one of the 51 rooms on the Range, and they're all built in pretty much the same way. No bathroom. No centralized air conditioning. A radiator and fireplace, which also brings regular visits by the fire marshal.

This is prestigious?

"It's awesome," Brogdon said. "It's a privilege to live on the Range. To see all the people, Edgar Allen Poe at one point lived on the Lawn, so it's a great honor."

Bigger than a Final Four bid?

"Oooh," Brogdon said. "I don't know about that. A Final Four would be pretty amazing."

Poe, whose room is preserved and can be viewed through a glass door, was about 5-foot-7 give or take an inch. Brogdon is 6-foot-5, which makes maneuvering around his room especially difficult.

His bed is atop a loft, and the ladder he climbs is on the same side as his closeted sink. He has to squeeze into the area, and the closet door can't be open when he ascends up the ladder.

Brogdon intentionally built the loft backwards so that the support beams are not against the window. Whenever he needs to access his desk to study, he must duck under the wooden planks.

Not to worry: Brogdon doesn't have to read books by candlelight. He does have electricity, although there are guidelines for the use of appliances. They have to be low-wattage, and they can't have exposed heating like a toaster oven. The room does get wi-fi and have an ethernet connection.

The rooms come with a vintage rocking chair for the warm months when it's too hot to sit inside. But Brogdon said he's afraid to sit in it because he doesn't want to break it.

"I don't think I could ever do it ... I don't know how they do it," said Virginia forward Anthony Gill, who was Brogdon's roommate the previous two years. "It's a fun experience that one year you have on the Range or on the Lawn, but it's definitely something you have to get used to."

It's kind of like living in an active museum. The Rotunda is essentially a tourist area for people who may want to visit Jefferson's home at nearby Monticello and see the original grounds as he envisioned them in Charlottesville.

Couples have been known to get married in the gardens between the Lawn and Range. Brogdon has even had strangers knock on his door and ask to view his room.

Legend has it that Ralph Sampson, arguably the best basketball player to ever play for the Cavaliers, had a room on the Lawn but never really stayed there because too many people would, unsolicited, stop by to try and meet him.

Thankfully, Brogdon hasn't had that problem just yet. And the way he sees it, it wouldn't be a problem.

"These rooms were basically built when Thomas Jefferson first built the University of Virginia, so they've been there and stood the test of time," Brogdon said.

Brogdon's name will forever be immortalized on the list of the precious few who have attended Virginia to stay on the Lawn or Range. In fact, each individual room has a list of all the students who have stayed there -- going all the way back to 1895 on the closet door.

"I don't know if it's an honor to live the way you live 100-something years ago. ... But I was really thankful for Malcolm that he's going to get to experience that," Bennett said. "Because that's something he'll look back on."

Technically, Brogdon doesn't yet have the complete experience from living on the Range even though he has been there all school year. Residents of the Lawn and Range are known for streaking at least once before they leave school.

"I haven't done that yet," he said.