There aren’t many University at Buffalo sports fans as committed as Ronald Balter, an attorney and 1980 UB grad who lives in Brooklyn.
After all, how many UB fans are so Bulls-starved that they attend cross-country, tennis and women’s basketball games in New York City?
So there was Balter, sitting at a UB viewing party he helped organize in Finnerty’s on Manhattan’s Second Avenue on Saturday night, when the Bulls edged Central Michigan 89-84, to earn the school’s first bid to the NCAA tournament – the Big Dance.
That game wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, and the last few dramatic minutes took their toll on Balter and other avid UB fans.
“When they were missing free throws and not running down the clock, I’m sitting there, pulling out the few remaining hairs I have left,” he quipped Monday. “It was great being there with all the other UB alums and fans in the bar. At the end, it was very exciting. Everyone was celebrating and high-fiving.”
Like hundreds of other UB alumni and loyal followers, Balter will be in Columbus on Friday, to see UB play West Virginia in the NCAA men’s Midwest Regional.
“I got the last room in the team hotel for Friday – and hopefully Saturday night,” he said.
Balter, of course, isn’t the only UB fan booking rooms and tickets for Columbus or reconnecting with the university.
As of mid-afternoon Monday, video of UB’s selection party Sunday had been seen by 117,000 Facebook users.
“The success of the basketball team has been a real rallying point for UB alumni around the world,” said John DellaContrada, UB’s associate vice president for media relations. “The response, at least over social media, has been overwhelming.”
Consistent with NCAA guidelines, UB was given an allotment of 550 tickets for the team’s first tournament game, at 2:10 p.m. Friday in Columbus’ Nationwide Arena, according to Jon Fuller, assistant athletic director for communications. With first priority being given to the school’s donors and corporate partners, the university’s Alumni Arena ticket office started taking people’s requests by phone or in person at 10 a.m. Monday.
“They’re steady. They’re brisk,” UB senior associate athletic director Todd Garzarelli said of the ticket requests early Monday afternoon. “The phones have been ringing all day, so it’s very exciting for us.”
Fans can inquire about becoming donors by joining the Blue & White Fund, with a wide variety of giving levels, Garzarelli said. The ticket office number is (877) UB THERE (828-4373). The university also made 100 tickets available for sale Monday to its students.
UB officials said that a few seats, in the upper levels, also were available Monday from the tournament itself.
Any available tickets here will be sold at $100 apiece in the lower level and $76 in the upper level.
Tickets bought on the secondary market no doubt will be more expensive.
A quick check of StubHub, at mid-morning Monday, showed 642 tickets for sale for the Friday afternoon doubleheader, featuring UB-West Virginia and Maryland-Valparaiso. The bottom line: If you want to buy on the secondary market, it’s probably going to cost more than $100 per seat for that afternoon doubleheader.
The StubHub asking prices for those tickets ranged from $96.88 to $1,160.80 per ticket. But that’s a bit misleading, since only one pair of tickets had an asking price over $600. Slightly more than half the available tickets had an asking price between $100 and $150, while another third listed prices between $150 and $200.
Still, the proximity of the four schools in the Friday afternoon doubleheader suggests that that may become a hotter ticket. All four schools are within a day’s drive. Buffalo is about 325 miles from Columbus, while Morgantown, W.Va., is only about 205.
Monday’s Columbus Dispatch newspaper also referred to the compelling storyline in the UB-West Virginia game, noting that West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, “a college basketball icon with deep Ohio roots,” has ties to UB coach Bobby Hurley.
“Of those four games at Nationwide, none will have more hype than the matchup between Huggins and Bobby Hurley, the former Duke star who has led No. 12 Buffalo (23-9) to its first NCAA tournament in his second season as Bulls coach,” the newspaper wrote. “Huggins, 61, brings enough storylines himself to fill a Russian novel, with his Ohio ties preceding 1992 when he coached Cincinnati to the Final Four – where Duke won the national title with its feisty point guard, Hurley.”
Balter, a UB football student manager in the late 1970s, will be making a longer trek than most alumni attending Friday’s game. But he’s an influential alumnus, whose name graces the Ronald Balter and Family Equipment Room at UB Stadium.
And he proved his chops as a loyal UB fan by saying this was the team’s first NCAA basketball tournament appearance since 1982; others have been saying that it’s the first ever. But he pointed out that the team played the College of Staten Island in the NCAA Division III championship in 1982.
Now that’s a fanatic.
Besides attending various UB sports events in New York City, Balter also has traveled much farther to many other games, including the football team’s successful 2008 run, when it won the Mid-America Conference championship in Detroit and played a bowl game in Toronto. That’s when Balter’s son Michael, like his father before him, served as student manager.
But now the Bulls have reached the big time, in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. And as he added, you never know when your team is going to make it again.
“This is the payoff,” he said of his Columbus trip. “That’s why I’m going.”