Buckeyes arrive in #8216;Big Easy#8217;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — For at least a few Ohio State Buckeyes, there was nothing easy about getting to the Big Easy.

Several players took a little longer to get to New Orleans on Wednesday to begin preparations for the Buckeyes’ showdown against LSU on Monday night in the BCS title game.

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Those who caught connecting flights in Chicago were delayed because of the snow and inclement weather which hit O’Hare Airport on New Year’s Day.

However, by Wednesday night’s deadline for being at the team hotel, the Buckeyes were all present and accounted for.

‘‘Roll call is when they get here,’’ coach Jim Tressel said Wednesday. ‘‘Some of the ones that were having trouble getting here we understand have just landed, so adjustments were made.’’

Those who had flights stacked up or canceled in Chicago were able to find alternate routes to New Orleans. Many had to wait it out in the airport or fly to another city before finally wending their way to rejoin their teammates.

The Buckeyes were officially welcomed to the city at the team hotel early Wednesday evening. They are staying at a hotel, not far from the French Quarter and on the banks of the Mississippi. The Riverwalk shopping mall adjoins the mammoth hotel.

Their first practice in New Orleans was to be held at Tulane University on Thursday.

While Ohio State dealt with some logistical problems, LSU merely boarded team buses in Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday afternoon for the 76-mile, 90-minute drive to New Orleans. The Tigers’ hotel was just a short walk from where the Buckeyes were staying.

Ohio State’s players were excited about visiting the bayou after playing three of the last four years in Arizona. Wide receiver Brian Robiskie, who lived in the city when his father, Terry, was an assistant coach for the New Orleans Saints, has not been back since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city 2 1/2 years ago.

‘‘For us to get down there and see what this game or any sports event at all can do for that city, obviously it will help,’’ Robiskie said. ‘‘I can remember when the Saints had their first home game after the tragedy, just watching how uplifting it was for the whole city to get those fans to come back there. I just hope we can have somewhat of a similar effect.’’

Fans will definitely be coming to the Superdome, although most of them will likely be wearing LSU’s purple and gold instead of Ohio State’s scarlet and gray.

While the Buckeyes were working on getting to New Orleans, so were many of their fans. After a brief holiday lull in sales and a drop in prices, apparently the bidding (and prices) picked up. A quick look at the Web shopping site eBay showed asking prices of as high as $3,500 and as low as $960 for two tickets to the game.

Each school was allotted 16,000 tickets for the game, accounting for just about half of the seats available. The rest went to sponsors and to the general public. As a result, the majority of the crowd will likely back the Tigers.

Tressel said he would have liked to see Ohio State receive more tickets because he was certain fans would snap them up.

‘‘There’s nothing we can do about it,’’ he said. ‘‘If we could have been given more tickets, we could’ve changed the home-field advantage but that’s part of the reality of it,’’ he said.

Ohio State’s fan base always seems to find a way to take over a venue on the road, particularly when the Buckeyes are playing for a national title.

When they met Miami in the 2002 season Bowl Championship Series final in Tempe, Ariz., there were so many Buckeyes fans the game appeared to be a big Ohio State pep rally, and the Buckeyes captured their first national crown in 34 years, 31-24 in double overtime.

A year ago in Glendale, Ariz., there appeared to be far more Ohio State than Florida fans, but those behind the Buckeyes were quieter as the Gators piled up a 41-14 win.

Tressel didn’t sound as if he was too worried about not enough Ohio State fans showing up on Monday night.

‘‘I would imagine they’ll get some tickets,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know that you would call it a home-field advantage for us, but we’ll get tickets.’’