- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

No, they didn’t show up. Neither one.

The nation’s soon-to-be first couple was nowhere to be found among the raucous crowd of about 2,300 inside steamy Burr Gymnasium on Friday night. Maybe that was for the best; Howard spoiled Craig Robinson’s debut as Oregon State coach with a 47-45 victory that was every bit as big for the home team as the hype and hoopla surrounding the game.

“In my tenure, it’s huge,” fourth-year Howard coach Gil Jackson said.

All the attention had been on Robinson, which is understandable given that he’s the big brother of Michelle Obama and thus the brother-in-law of President-elect Barack Obama. Robinson even made dozens of campaign appearances on Obama’s behalf; there was speculation all week about whether one or both members of the couple might attend.

“[Fans] had to line up for tickets,” Jackson said. “That never happens here.”

But the real chance of a Barack Obama sighting was zero. He is, after all, interviewing potential Cabinet appointees and generally preparing to be president.

“I’m sure he’s too busy with the transition team to worry about us,” Robinson said. “I’m sure somebody will tell him.”

Robinson came to Oregon State after two years at Brown, inheriting a downtrodden program that last year went 0-18 in the Pac-10 and 5-26 overall. The Beavers had a chance to tie it at the end, but Daniel Deane’s running layup hung on the rim for a tantalizing moment before rolling off.

To turn his program around, Robinson said it won’t take the 20 months it took his brother-in-law to win the presidency.

“It’s going to take longer than that,” he said. “We have to change a culture from losing to winning.”

Despite its stature, Oregon State still represents the powerful Pac-10. Howard, which went 6-26 last year, belongs to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which has neither the same prestige nor talent. The game was not particularly well-played - both teams shot below 40 percent - but the fans didn’t care, responding to the victory with an on-court celebration.

“I’ve never seen that - swarming the court at Burr,” Jackson said. “But that’s what we want to do. We want to be a college program that competes. It’s a start.”

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