- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

From combined dispatches

BOISE, Idaho | Big Blue has served his sentence and will be back in uniform for Utah State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Aggies’ mascot was suspended one game for scuffling with New Mexico State mascot Pistol Pete during Utah State’s win in the Western Athletic Conference semifinals last week.

“We went ahead and suspended him for one game. He’s back and will be ready to go,” Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said Thursday.

The Aggies open the East Region against Marquette - and look for Big Blue to be on his best behavior. The blue bull had to sit out Utah State’s win over Nevada in the WAC title game.

The scuffle started after a fan offered the Utah State mascot $100 to rip off the large, fake mustache that’s part of Pistol Pete’s cowboy getup. That wrangled Pistol Pete, who chased Big Blue to the middle of the court and tried unsuccessfully to tackle and choke him.

After the fracas, Tyler Newbold hit a 15-foot jumper with 3.1 seconds left to give Utah State a 71-70 win, keeping alive its NCAA tournament hopes.

Utah State issued an apology and said the money Big Blue accepted was to go to a children’s shelter. Barnes said he hoped the suspension put an end to the highly publicized incident.

Gregory close to extension

MINNEAPOLIS | Brian Gregory came to Dayton from Michigan State with high hopes of building the mid-major program into a regular guest at the NCAA tournament.

On the eve of the 11th-seeded Flyers’ opening-round game against sixth-seeded West Virginia, Gregory got a vote of confidence from Dayton’s administration that he’s on the right track.

Gregory said Thursday he has agreed to a five-year contract extension to stay with the Flyers through the 2017-18 season.

“I’m just really pleased that the administration feels that, with the way the program is moving forward, that the best thing for the program would be to extend my contract out another five years,” Gregory said. “I’m really excited about it. I’ve said all along this is the place I wanted to be. It’s the perfect fit for me.”

After narrowly missing out on an NCAA berth a year ago, Gregory got Dayton (26-7) over the hump this season and into the Midwest Region. The Flyers face the Mountaineers in the first round Friday.

Seats aplenty

MIAMI | About 5,000 tickets for Friday’s first-round NCAA tournament games in Miami remained unsold, making it almost certain the site will not be a sellout.

At least one of the other seven sites hosting early round games also had seats available, but none have endured slower ticket sales than Miami, where officials plan on drawing black curtains around parts of the upper level to block out sections of empty seats.

“It’s a combination of factors,” said Mike Sophia, the executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission. “We hope to see more people show up. But everybody’s sort of gauging what the economy’s doing to events like this.”

A scalper near the arena was trying to get $150 - about double face value - for tickets to Friday’s first two-game session. He would not give his name and said that’s what he paid for each of the eight seats he was trying to move.

Told that tickets were still available for $76 a session, the man simply said his seats were better and walked away.



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