NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: THE FINAL FOUR : Notebook : Ticket Controversy in New Orleans

From Times Wire Services

A total of 500 tickets to the NCAA Final Four wound up with a California travel agent, according to Louisiana State University board member Camille Gravel.

Gravel said the University of New Orleans, which is under the board's authority, was authorized by NCAA rules to sell the tickets in packages of no more than six. He said he did not know how the tickets got to the travel agent or which travel agent it was.

Robert D'Hemecourt, an aide to Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, said he originally held the tickets which Gravel described during an LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday in New Orleans.

D'Hemecourt said he tried to sell them to lawmakers and others to raise money for the tournament committee.

He was unable to do so, he said, and sold them for $125,000--the price he paid--to Gus Piazza, who runs Phil's Oyster House in New Orleans and sells concert and sports tickets.

D'Hemecourt said Piazza turned the tickets over to someone else whose name he could not recall.

"I don't know and I don't care," D'Hemecourt said.

The Nevada Las Vegas team is pulling for one of the members of its basketball family. Cheerleader Valerie Pida is suffering from Hodgkin's disease and begins bone marrow transplant treatments next month.

Guard Mark Wade is among the Rebel players who has spoken on her behalf as the players try to raise money to defray $125,000 in medical expenses.

To gain a true feeling for what it is like to watch basketball in the world's largest domed stadium, climb to the top of Section 613 in the Superdome.

"I knew it was going to be high, but I didn't expect it to be like this," a Syracuse fan said. "The Carrier Dome (in Syracuse) is high, but nothing like this."

To reach the top of the Superdome--the 600 level--you walk up a circular ramp that reminds one of a carpeted parking garage.

"At what level will they hand out the oxygen?" a woman asked with a laugh on the way up.

When you finally get there, it might be wise to take a breather. If you're sitting in the top row, there are 72 steps left.

Seat 10 in Section 613, Row 43, is right at halfcourt. Unfortunately, it's 410 feet from the playing surface and 180 feet off the ground.

Some with tickets and some wanting them, Indiana basketball fans arrived outside the Superdome early.

Scalping is illegal on Superdome property but that didn't stop the chant of "Who needs tickets, Who needs tickets?"

Ticket sellers found the supply of available tickets was high, lowering the price.

"I paid $20 (the regular price) for my ticket," said Holly Hapak of Indianapolis, a senior at Indiana. "I was hoping I'd be able to get a ticket without paying a lot."

Tom Gunn of Indianapolis obtained four seats high up in the 63,000-seat facility through the NCAA lottery.

"Three of my friends sold their tickets," Gunn said, "and now since I'm not able to get what I want for my ticket, I think I'll go see the game. After all, it's a chance of a lifetime."

Shopping in Syracuse, N.Y., malls emptied, cars came to a halt, a dance marathon stopped and a couple delayed their wedding when it became apparent Syracuse University is going to its first-ever NCAA championship game.

On campus at Manley Field House, some 250 couples participating in the student dance marathon for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. rested as they watched the game after 24 hours of dancing.

Diane DeBaise, 30, and Gregory Hutchins, 28, of Clay, N.Y., didn't expect Syracuse to make the Final Four when they began planning their wedding, but when the Orangemen made it to New Orleans, the longtime fans decided to get married during halftime.

"The only thing I asked of my friends is that we turn the television off during the wedding," DeBaise said.

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