By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2011; 12:14 AM
Syracuse's home away from home - sometimes referred to as Verizon Center - figures to be far less welcoming to fans of the Orange when Georgetown hosts its biggest rival on Saturday afternoon.
That's exactly how Georgetown athletic department officials hoped it would be. But the scarcity of tickets has Syracuse's significant alumni base in the Washington area crying foul, pouring more fuel on one of college basketball's burning rivalries.
In past seasons, the Orange's legion of local supporters secured thousands of tickets to see their team play Georgetown at Verizon Center by purchasing them through Ticketmaster or the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Washington, D.C., which would purchase a block of tickets and then distribute them to its constituents.
But Georgetown's ticket officials ensured that wouldn't happen this season. The staffers executed a "pre-sale" strategy in which all of the tickets were sold before they went on sale to the public by aggressively marketing them to Georgetown season ticket holders and athletic department donors.
"It's same process that we had for the Duke game last year," said Steve Alleva, Georgetown's director of ticket sales, referring to Georgetown's 89-77 victory over a Blue Devils team that, like Syracuse, has a fervent local following. "As that pre-sale was going on, we put a tentative public on-sale date of January 3 up on Ticketmaster, which is how we sell our public tickets. That was the date tickets were scheduled to go on sale, if any were available. So in late December, when we realized we were not going to have any tickets for public sale, we removed that date from Ticketmaster.com."
Georgetown's plan was aided by an increased demand from its fans who wanted to attend the first weekend home game against Syracuse since 2006. It's also the final home game of the season - and the last home game for seniors Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, Julian Vaughn and Ryan Dougherty - and it comes one day after Georgetown great Alonzo Mourning and others are inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame.
Despite Georgetown's efforts to ensure an all blue-and-gray crowd, however, many Syracuse fans have managed to obtain tickets. The school received its conference-mandated allotment of 240 tickets, plus 60 more, according to Georgetown. Those tickets generally go to a university's biggest donors.
Other Syracuse fans purchased a partial season ticket plan or donated $25 to Georgetown, which, in effect, made them a member of the Hoya Hoop Club.
Mike Licker, a 2006 Syracuse graduate, became a reluctant Georgetown booster. He made the donation, purchased four tickets and is flying in from Boston to attend the game.
"I went to Ticketmaster at the time tickets were supposed to go on sale and it said, 'No public sale at this time,' " Licker recalled. "So I went back to the Georgetown athletics Web site, which said: 'Tickets may not go on public sale. But if you would like to make a $25 donation, you can go ahead and buy up to eight tickets.' "
Licker figures he paid a lot less for his tickets ($25 each, plus the donation) than purchasing them from a scalper or on the Internet. As of Thursday evening, the cheapest tickets were going for $185 each on StubHub.com, an online ticket re-seller.
"The irony of the whole thing is I don't think I've ever donated money to Syracuse," he said with laugh. "And now I'm a Georgetown donor. I'm sure I'll be getting a phone calls from them on a yearly basis to give them more money now that they have all of my information."
Adam Jones, a 2008 Syracuse graduate, purchased his seats through a friend, who also happens to be a Georgetown alum and had access to tickets.
"He got three tickets with the intent of selling two to us, but I don't think he told them that," said Jones, who declined to identify his friend. "Granted, when I show up at the game on Saturday wearing Syracuse gear trying to sit in the alumni section we'll see what happens - even if I have a ticket."
Some, however, refused to play Georgetown's game - on principle, they said - and must purchase tickets from a third party or watch the game on CBS.
"I did some research into it, and I found out you had to buy tickets to three other games or you had to donate to Georgetown," said Blaise DeFazio, a 2000 Syracuse graduate who lives in Rockville. "I refuse to donate to Georgetown."