By John Helsley
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At first glance, the crowd of 5,342 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena for OSU’s NIT opener against Harvard might seem disappointing.
Cowboys coach Travis Ford was thrilled.
Consider the challenges the school faced in selling the game:
* Spring Break virtually eliminated the student faction, with the campus a ghost town.
* The athletic department was dealing with a short turnaround for sales, with the announcement of the game coming late Sunday night and the game set for Tuesday.
* The weather outside was absolutely perfect – pleasant and calm. Who wanted to be indoors?
* And, of course, it was the NIT, not the NCAA Tournament, at the end of a disappointing season.
Still, while the arena was less than half-filled, there was an energy inside and plenty of noise, contributing to a 71-54 win that extends the Cowboys season.
“I think this played a big role,” in the win, Ford said. “A huge, huge role. It did for me and I know it did for the team.
“We didn’t know what to expect crowd-wise tonight. To be honest with you, we didn’t expect a lot. It was on national television. We walked out there and it was as loud as it has been.”
After the game, Ford said he bumped into many fans who spoke words of magic.
“I can’t tell you how many people I have run into in the last 20 minutes that said they had never been able to come to a game until this game,” Ford said. “Or, ‘I hadn’t been to a game, but I could afford to come to this game.’
“So many people, I think, were excited to be at this game that maybe couldn’t have come to other games. But the energy level in this building tonight was great. Our players felt that. When I walked out there, I felt it.
“‘I went, hey, this is exciting. This is great. We are going to need it.’”
Back to the words of magic. Cowboys fans have complained about ticket pricing for several years now, with the cost of attending OSU games rising steeply and rapidly. They’ve cried out in e-mails and on message boards. And they’ve spoken silently, in the form of empty seats.
This should be a lesson for OSU officials, help your coach and help your team and help your fans and lower ticket prices.
The same ticket pricing principles from football – successful principles, we’ll allow – don’t apply to basketball.
On short notice, on a gorgeous spring day in a tournament that doesn’t exactly command attention, a decent number backed the Cowboys for the NIT.
Not long after the final buzzer sounded, Ford grabbed the public address mic to say a few words to the GIA gathering.
“I thanked them for making the effort,” Ford said. “Because everybody had to come buy a ticket to get in. We really appreciate the effort and really appreciate everybody sticking with this basketball team.”