Some Sooner basketball fans are pretty hot at the University of Oklahoma right now.
But their anger is misdirected.
OU received 2,528 requests from its season-ticket holders for tickets to this weekend’s NCAA Tournament games at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the school was given only 450 tickets by the NCAA.
That’s caused some hurt feelings among Sooner Nation.
“OU hoops (was) begging for fans only a couple years ago,” one long-time fan wrote in a direct message on Twitter. “Now they’re stabbing them in the back.”
The second-seeded Sooners (25-7) meet 15-seed Cal State Bakersfield (24-8) at approximately 3 p.m. Friday. No. 7-seed Oregon State (19-12) and 10-seed VCU (24-10) tangle at 12:30 p.m. In the night session, 3-seed Texas A&M (26-8) plays 14-seed Green Bay (23-12) at 6:20 p.m., and 6-seed Texas (20-12) plays 11-seed Northern Iowa (22-12) at approximately 8:50. Tip times for Sunday’s second-round games are TBA.
OU sent season-ticket holders an email recently — before the Selection Sunday bracket announcement — reminding them that only “Bud Wilkinson donors ($10,000 or more in annual donations to the Sooner Club) with 2,945.5 or more priority points were allotted tickets” to whatever regional the Sooners would be playing in.”
Naturally, that didn’t sit well with fans who have easily obtained NCAA Tournament tickets in the past.
“I’ve been a season-ticket holder for 18 years,” said one Oklahoma City resident who wished to remain unidentified because she owns a small business and wants to remain in good standing with OU fans and with the school. “When I got this, I was just floored.”
She said when the Sooners went to the Final Four back in 2002, she had no trouble getting tickets either for the first two rounds in Dallas or for the Final Four in Atlanta.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been turned down with my season ticket for anything,” she said.
In past years, the NCAA gave participating schools 550 tickets to first- and second-round games. This year, OU got only 450, and OU made those available only to priority donors.
“It’s all about the money nowadays,” the small-business owner said. “They’ve priced out the majority of the fans.”
Kenny Mossman is OU’s senior associate athletic director for external operations. He said availing high-demand tickets to priority donors is “customary. That’s a fairly normal way for us to allocate tickets. We do that for bowl games and OU-Texas and other games where there’s a premium on the tickets we have.
“You have to have some procedure or some prioritization for allocating tickets, and I’ve never heard a school doing it differently.”
The real problem, it seems, is that many fans have dragged their feet. Although the bracket was announced on Sunday, OKC tickets went on sale in October.
“We’ve been informing fans for weeks about the small allotment each team would get should we be fortunate enough to play in OKC,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione told The Franchise in a text message. “In spite of our efforts, some seem to think we are the host and we have a larger allotment than other teams. Not the case. In fact, we would only have tickets for the first session in which we play. The tickets have been on sale since last fall and there are still some available. A good number have prepared well but you can guess how some may wait until the bracket is released.”
“I got my tickets in January,” said OU fan Harry Taylor, an OU season-ticket holder who lives in Oklahoma City. “I just love college basketball, I love March Madness, and so when it came out they were playing the games here, I went out and bought them.”
Taylor is not a Bud Wilkinson donor and did not get his tickets from OU. Instead, he said he bought his tickets online at Ticketmaster — there are still some available — long before OU was announced as one of the participants, and paid only $50 per session ($150 total plus fees) for seats in the upper decks.
The tickets OU made available to its priority donors ranged from $66 to $100 per session, per NCAA first- and second-round pricing structures, and are on the lower level. Tickets in those sections now can be bought through the secondary markets for $300 and up.
Which puts many Sooner fans at home on their couch for March Madness.
“I’m not gonna pay that kind of money when I can watch it on my HDTV,” the small-business owner said. “It’s a whole different ballgame today. And hey, I got to see ‘em live at home all the time. So I’m not gonna complain about not seeing ‘em firsthand. I got to see ‘em at Lloyd Noble.”
Another avenue for purchasing tickets was through the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, which received 500 tickets as the host organization. But All Sports Association executive director Tim Brassfield told The Franchise those tickets went to All Sports Association members — there are only 500 he said — and the $300-per-session seats in the lower levels sold quickly.
“I remember at one point Joe (Castiglione) telling me Oklahoma City wasn’t selling particularly quickly,” Mossman said. “Then as it plays out and people try to guess where they’re going, those start to tighten up. I think even Oklahoma fans had to wait just a little bit to see, ‘Is it for sure we’re gonna go there?’
“I think it was kind of a late realization for a lot of people, ‘Oh, it’s here and I don’t have a ticket.’ ”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the only tickets left are at NCAA.com and ChesapeakeArena.com (both sites redirect to TicketMaster.com), but those are baseline seats in the upper levels priced at $50 per session.
“We’re inside of a thousand tickets left,” Brassfield said. “We didn’t sell out in 2010. However, we’re way ahead of that pace this year.”
That’s obviously the Sooner factor.
Brassfield said the All Sports Association has had a steady stream of OU season-ticket holders call looking for tickets.
“The downside of that is they’ve had the opportunity since October and they just haven’t purchased them,” Brassfield said. “Now, of course, our phone rang of the wall yesterday. But it’s frustrating to us as well. You keep telling ‘em the likelihood that OU will be placed here is a real opportunity and you should purchase your tickets.”
Let this be a lesson to college basketball fans in Tulsa. When the tournament comes to the BOK Center next year, it’s a good idea to buy early. NCAA.com currently offers a chance to sign up for 2017 presale tickets.
“Once (the bracket) is announced,” Brassfield said, “they do go very fast.”