For Creighton fans, a win over Wichita State on Saturday would be great.
For Bluejay season ticket holders, a win by scoring at least 75 points brings an extra benefit.
For several years, Creighton has teamed with a local pizza chain to give the Bluejays a little added incentive at games. If the team reaches 75 points, every season ticket holder can redeem that game ticket before the next home game for a free mini pepperoni pizza at Godfather's — with the purchase of a large soft drink.
“That number (75) has changed over the years,” said Mike West, Creighton's director of marketing. “But it continues to be a very popular promotion for us.”
That support begins with Godfather's President and CEO Ron Gartlan, a Creighton graduate and a member of the school's board of trustees. He's also a regular attendee at home games.
“We know that fans really get into it when the Bluejays get close to that 75 mark,” Godfather's Director of Marketing Jan Sammons said. “It's not unusual to hear people chanting, 'Pizza! Pizza!' and I know Ron always gets a kick out of that.”
The fans' ongoing support of the Bluejays and Creighton's on-court success have ramped up the number of free pizzas in recent years. And with 13,000 season ticket holders, that's a lot of Godfather's dough.
“We know that many of those tickets get redeemed,” Sammons said. “We go through more mini pizzas during Creighton basketball season than any other time of the year.”
Representatives from Godfather's and Creighton meet before each season to discuss the promotion and determine the pizza number. It has fluctuated over the years from 70 to 80, but has held steady at 75 since the 2006-07 season.
“We thought with our offensive capabilities this season that we might reach that number a lot,” West said. “And that's the way it's turned out.”
Creighton has scored at least 75 points in 12 of its 17 home games this season.
Sammons said there was some preseason discussion about shifting the number to 80, but it was decided to stay at 75.
“We want people in our establishments eating our pizza,” she said. “And I think the fans are appreciative of what we do.”
Those hungry fans turn out for their free pizzas in force, especially to the Godfather's located at 29th and Farnam Streets — the one closest to the CenturyLink Center.
“We get a pretty big crowd on game nights because fans will stop in here first,” manager Brandon Hilliard said. “A few people ask questions but most of them already know the drill.”
That 75-point mark has become such an important number that Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson has kept track of every player who has hit the free pizza shot since the Jays moved into the CenturyLink Center in 2003.
“It's weird because it's not always the players you would think,” he said. “I know all the guys are aware on the bench that 75 is the magic number.”
For the record, Johnny Mathies pleased the hungry fans more than anyone else. He hit the big shot 10 times — five during the 2003-04 season, three in 2004-05 and two in 2005-06.
Other major people-pleasers have been Cavel Witter (8) and Antoine Young (5). The breakdown this year (Anderson's list doesn't include exhibition games) is Jahenns Manigat (3), Austin Chatman (2), and one each for Taylor Stormberg, Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge, Will Artino, Nevin Johnson and Andre Yates.
Yates, a freshman guard, was the most recent pizza delivery guy. His jumper with 41 seconds left on Feb. 2 provided the final Bluejays' points in a 75-58 win over Bradley.
Fans have been denied pizza in the two most recent Creighton home games — a 75-72 loss against Illinois State on Feb. 9 and a 59-45 win over Southern Illinois on Feb. 19. The Bluejays' last shot at feeding the fans this season comes Saturday against the Shockers.
Head coach Greg McDermott said he is aware of the promotion, though that wasn't always the case.
“It kind of came as a surprise to me early on,” he said. “I heard this big roar from the crowd when we reached 75 points one game and I wasn't sure what was going on.”
Players also have become somewhat legendary — at least in the minds of famished fans — for hitting the shot that puts the Bluejays over the top.
One such player was Ross Ferrarini, an Omaha Westside graduate who saw limited action but was dubbed “The Godfather” by former teammate Gibbs for his ability to provide the masses with free pizza.
He accomplished that goal twice, most famously last season against Indiana State. With time running out, Ferrarini stepped up and nailed a 3-pointer to put the Bluejays over the top.
After the game, coach McDermott said it would have taken a “small army” to stop Ferrarini from taking that shot.
“The guys at the end of the bench always want to keep playing hard to the end,” Ferrarini said. “It's obviously pretty important to the fans, so I wanted to try and give them what they wanted.”
That was probably a good thing, because there have been a few situations elsewhere this season where the enticement of free food has led to conflict.
>> During a Chicago Bulls home game against Orlando, Chicago center Joakim Noah fired up a rare 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left and the Bulls leading 99-93.
The reason? Fans would be treated to a free Big Mac from McDonald's if the Bulls reached 100 points.
The outcome? The 6-foot-11 Noah missed only the fifth 3-point attempt of his career. And while the fans probably appreciated his effort, he was scolded by head coach Tom Thibodeau.
>> With the host Philadelphia 76ers leading Atlanta 99-80 with 23.8 seconds left, guard Evan Turner was instructed by Sixers head coach Doug Collins to dribble out the rest of the time. Despite that 19-point lead, boos reigned down from the crowd.
The reason? Philadelphia fans — who famously booed Santa Claus once at an Eagles game — were denied their free Big Macs because the Sixers failed to reach the 100-point mark.
The outcome? Collins realized the error of his ways and had the public-address announcer tell the fans that he would pay for the Big Macs out of his own pocket. With a crowd of 18,061 and the average price of a Big Mac at $4.33, the coach shelled out more than $78,000.
>> On the local front, Nebraska's Tim Miles seemed somewhat perplexed in his NU coaching debut when fans started to boo with the host Huskers holding a late 68-40 lead over Midland Lutheran.
The reason? If Nebraska reached the 70-point mark, it meant free Runzas for all.
The outcome? Miles playfully stuck his fingers in his ears to shut out the boos. NU held the ball for the final 12 seconds and the 6,679 at the Devaney Center missed out on their freebie.
Creighton fans will be happy to hear that school officials and the Godfather's people are happy with the 75-point promotion and plan to keep it going in the future.
And there's a very good reason for that. Just ask “The Godfather” himself.
“It's a fun thing,” Ferrarini said. “And who doesn't like free pizza?”
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