Adrian Rider had to pause and let the words sink in.
“I just can't believe I'm saying this,” said Rider, Creighton's assistant athletic director for ticketing and marketing.
What Rider was saying Tuesday boggles the mind of anyone who sat through the dark days of Bluejay basketball in the early- and mid-1990s.
Ten days before Creighton opens its 2013-14 season, the school has cut off the sale of season tickets. In less than an hour of single-game sales on Tuesday, Creighton sold out seven of its 17 games at the 17,390-seat CenturyLink Center. Fewer than 900 tickets remain for any of the other 10 games.
Rider believes there is a possibility that every game, including Friday's exhibition game against Northern State, could be sold out. An exhibition game sellout?
“Again, I can't believe I'm saying that,” Rider said. “I've never envisioned a day like today.”
Creighton knew last spring when it was announced that it would be joining the Big East that the already high interest in the program would probably reach another level. That's played out in the months since, first in the response for season tickets and then with Tuesday's single-game sales.
Creighton has sold 15,046 season tickets to smash the record 13,731 that it sold last season. That led school officials to cap sales prior to Tuesday's single-game sales.
“We have talked for so long around here whether we could ever get to the point where we stopped selling season tickets,” Rider said. “We've reached that point.”
Single-game tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Rider said one fan showed up at the Ryan Center ticket office at 7:15, and by the time sales began, about 50 to 60 people were in line.
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He said CenturyLink box office officials reported similar interest, with about 70 to 80 people in line at that venue when sales began.
“We know that most people ordered tickets online or by phone from Ticketmaster,” Rider said. “But some people like to avoid the surcharges, which can get expensive, or they like to have somebody helping them and they know exactly what they were getting.”
Ten minutes after sales began, there were no tickets remaining for the Dec. 31 Big East opener against Marquette and the Jan. 25 game against Georgetown. The Dec. 8 nonconference game against Nebraska sold out at 10:11.
The Jan. 14 game against Butler sold out at 10:20, and the Feb. 16 game against Villanova was off the board at 10:56.
Rider said large group sales commitments had left two games all but sold out before tickets went on sale: the Dec. 29 game against Chicago State and the Feb. 23 game against Seton Hall.
Rider said there were fewer than 200 tickets remaining for the Jan. 12 game against Xavier and the March 8 Senior Night contest against Providence. All of the other eight games not sold out, including the exhibition, have fewer than 900 tickets left for sale.
“What I find the most interesting piece of it all,” Rider said, “is our California game.”
In the past, when Creighton played in the Missouri Valley, a nonconference game against a power-conference opponent such as California would have drawn considerable sales interest.
“It was amazing how overshadowed a game like California got with us now being in the Big East,” Rider said. “There are still 500 tickets left for California. That's amazing that we're saying 500 is a lot of tickets.
“Typically, if we had 1,000 to 1,200 tickets on the day of the game, no matter who the opponent was, we had a shot at the sellout. After one day of sales, we don't have one game with that many tickets remaining.”
Rider said Creighton will sell standing-room only tickets on the day of the game for any contest that is sold out. The number of SRO tickets made available will vary from game to game, he said.
Creighton also continues to do brisk sales of tickets for the March conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. Rider said Creighton has sold 1,250 of the tickets, which range in price from $180 to $600.
Among the seven holdovers from the old Big East, St. John's sold the most tickets for last season's tournament at 1,440. St. John's is located in Queens, N.Y., and plays a portion of its home schedule at the Garden.
Rider said he was talking with Marquette's ticket manager Tuesday to inform him that the Dec. 31 game had sold out in 10 minutes.
“He was amazed by that,” Rider said. “Then he told me he's heard we're doing a hell of a job selling tournament tickets. The word is out about the interest our fans have in the league.”