Oregon or bust? Opening round tickets in short supply, low demand for Illini fans

Fans+celebrate+a+three-pointer+made+by+the+Illini+during+the+game+against+Penn+State+at+Assembly+Hall%2C+February+18%2C+2009.+The+team+will+play+in+Portland%2C+Ore.%2C+but+not+many+students+will+make+the+trip.%0A

Fans celebrate a three-pointer made by the Illini during the game against Penn State at Assembly Hall, February 18, 2009. The team will play in Portland, Ore., but not many students will make the trip.

By Jeff LaBelle

Orange Krush member Jenny Menacher saw the e-mail in her inbox Monday but didn’t reply. A 20-hour trek from Champaign to Portland was an easy one to pass up this time around.

“I was like, ‘I’m not going to spend the money to go there. I have a test on Thursday and I’m going to Florida Saturday,'” Menacher said. “The e-mail said the ticket office had given Krush a limited number of tickets to give away, but it’s a little far I think.”

Menacher’s dilemma was a common one. Only a handful of people responded when tickets to the Illini’s NCAA Tournament game in Portland were released. Krush’s top brass sent an e-mail feeler offering tickets to the session, through the University, for less than $60. But according to Krush president Myles Hastings, they didn’t get a lot of feelers back. In fact, all told, they didn’t distribute any available tickets to Illinois students. Instead, Krush sold two tickets to fans in Oregon, according to member Brett Calvert.

“We offered tickets to people because we knew (the University was) going to have a hard time getting rid of them,” Hastings said. “Not many people wanted to make that 20-hour drive.”

Only 350 tickets were released to the University altogether, the standard practice for all teams during the first round. Many of those were distributed to players, their families, the administration and donors.

“There were a few tickets we were able to sell through Krush,” Illinois assistant Sports Information Director Derrick Burson said. “There wasn’t enough to do a public sale for all students. We don’t have enough for that. We only had 350 total to cover everything.

“We offered some to some students. We started with them because they were season ticket holders. We couldn’t open it up to all students because we couldn’t have met the demand.”

With school still in session, work schedules and upcoming vacations looming, not many students could have made the trip anyway.

“It’s just too complicated,” senior John Dust said. “I’ll either watch the game at a bar or go back to my place. If I go home, I’ll just watch it in the basement with my parents or somebody. But I’ll definitely catch it.”

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said that the only thing he wasn’t happy about Sunday, after the seeds were released, was where Illinois would be playing.

“The disappointing thing is we’re a long way from home,” Weber said. “We have such good fans. I know we will have quite a bit of orange there. The last time we played Oregon in Portland we had a lot of orange there, and they came from all over the west coast.”

About the only Illinois student group that can travel in bulk to the game is the Illinois basketball band. The pep band traveled with the team Tuesday via a chartered flight from Willard Airport nonstop to Oregon. Sara Emme, one of the band’s piccolo players, was excited to make the trip.

“It feels so awesome because I’m not just in it for the band part. I’m in it for the game and to cheer on the guys,” Emme, a sophomore, said. “I’m hoping there’s going to be some fans out there. But I don’t know what to expect.”