Article by Dana Knight, Indianapolis Star
If IU fans are headed anywhere for a basketball game this week, it's probably to Chicago to watch their fiery former coach, not to California to cheer their own team. Soaring airline ticket prices and a game being played just about as far west from Indiana as the U.S. map allows will keep most Indiana University fans at home.
Of two dozen ticket brokers and travel agents contacted by The Star, not one had received a call from a fan heading to Sacramento to watch fifth-seeded IU play Utah on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"I haven't had anybody asking to go to California at all," said Peter Jamison, manager of Ross & Babcock Travel in Indianapolis. "The travel is just almost impossible right now. You're paying more than you would have if you had known about it ahead of time. Chicago? They can just drive there."
Underscoring the fact that most Hoosier fans will be watching from home: Indiana University's 350 allotted tickets still hadn't sold out as of Tuesday afternoon, said Mike Roberts, ticket manager for IU's athletic department. Many of the tickets that did sell went to IU alumni who live in California.
"It's somewhat difficult for people (in Indiana) to get there," Roberts said. "Because of short notice and airline ticket prices, that tends to dictate what people do."
According to Expedia.com, round-trip flights leaving today from Indianapolis to Sacramento ranged from $833 to $1,502. "Prices like that would certainly change my mind," Roberts said.
On the other hand, seeing Texas Tech and former IU coach Bob Knight would cost about a tank of gas and the price of a ticket. The Lubbock, Texas, school had sold all of its 400 tickets on Tuesday and actually turned away Indiana fans looking to nab a seat for Friday's game at the United Center, said Russell Warren, Assistant Athletics Director for Ticket Operations at Texas Tech.
"We've had some calling and asking," he said. "It's fun. I see IU fans all around, in the parking lot. Thank God they're red because we are, too."
Warren contends that for Hoosier fans, the sheer distance to California -- not necessarily loyalty to Knight -- made Friday's game in Chicago a more feasible option.
The lack of interest from IU fans looking to fly to California has Anita Davis baffled. The agent with Carefree Travel on East Washington Street said she hasn't had one call -- even to inquire.
"And I don't know why, whether it is the ticket prices or what. I just can't tell you," she said.
Diehard IU fan Mike Pegram has his opinion: California is a long way off, and it's expensive. He made the decision Tuesday morning to call off a trip to Sacramento.
"My wife and I had a long conversation," said Pegram, who runs a popular IU basketball web site. "It's really hard to get flights at this time, and it's really expensive."
Thousand of fans nationwide follow Pegram's web site. He said he isn't aware of any Indiana residents headed to Sacramento, but he knows of dozens of IU fans living in California who plan to go to the game.
Pegram has his doubts the Hoosiers will survive the first two rounds of the tournament, but he's sure the interest will build significantly if they do.
If Indiana wins Thursday, it plays the winner of the USC/UNC-Wilmington game on Saturday. If IU wins that game, the next stop would be Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. That's when brokers would be flooded, said Jeff Brewster of A Great Seat Co., an Indianapolis ticket brokerage.
"We haven't had an inquiry yet for California and not for the first two rounds," he said. "We've already had calls about Rupp Arena. People will go there."