The Ohio State Alumni Association began its Buckeye Bash event planning process back in June. Even then, Jim Smith, president and CEO of the Alumni Association, didn’t anticipate the turnout on Saturday in Lloyd Noble Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.
The Alumni Association sold 800 tickets for the first Buckeye Bash event of the 2016 OSU football season. Smith said that he should have booked a bigger venue.
“Buckeye Nation is very unique when you compare it to fans across the country and across the world,” Smith said. “We travel so well. While it definitely warms my heart, it doesn’t surprise me.”
Smith said there were 23 states represented at the Buckeye Bash event including Arizona, California, Washington, Florida, “State Up North” and New York.
The association’s constituent programing team combined with the events office to find a suitable environment for a tailgate event before the thousands of Buckeye fans treked over to Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium to watch OSU take on the Oklahoma Sooners.
Two people were sent by the organizations to scout out facilities around the Oklahoma campus. Director of alumni societies Craig Little said that the Alumni Association tried to find venues closest to the stadium. While the Lloyd Noble Center is roughly 1.5 miles from the football stadium, the venue has held tailgates for Notre Dame, Tennessee and visiting Big 12 schools in the past.
Smith said that he and the association take pride in putting on events for the fan base in an area that is unknown to most of them.
“I think we look for the right games to put on a great event for a lot of people to get together and share their Buckeye love for each other,” Smith said. “We probably could’ve had another 500 people here had we had the capacity.”
The Alumni Association sold different packages for the pregame festivities. One that included a ticket to the game provided by the Athletics Department and the Buckeye Bash for $133, and the other package for the tailgate.
There was also an “alumni tour” package which Little called a “land-only package.” It included a three-day, two-night stay at a hotel that had to be arranged by the individual travelling, but advertised on the Alumni Association’s website. Some 200 tickets were sold for the alumni tour which included a welcome party in Bricktown — a tourist destination in downtown Oklahoma City — on Friday night.
The OSU Marching Band performed “Le Regiment,” “Hang On Sloopy” and “Carmen Ohio” for the fans in attendance. An abundant spread of food and beverages was served at the event as well as a bar with beer and mixed drinks.
John Phalen, a Buckeye fan from a suburb north of Fort Worth, Texas, delayed his hip replacement surgery to watch his team play the Sooners. He attended the Buckeye Bash before the 2002 and 2014 national championships.
“I told my doctor there was no way I was going to miss this game,” Phalen said hobbling on crutches. “Drugs are good.”
University President Michael Drake was at the event singing “Carmen Ohio” with fellow OSU alumni and his wife, Brenda. Drake said the atmosphere at the event represents the excellent fan base the university has.
“We travel so well. Our away games are like home games,” he said. “This is a chance for Buckeye Nation’s spirit to connect with each other.”
The next Buckeye Bash will be held at Michigan State on Nov. 19.