Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Colorado athletic department officials were all smiles during Tuesday's football press luncheon at the Dal Ward Center.

And not because the Buffs will be featured on SportsCenter again this Saturday after playing No. 2 Oregon in Eugene.

There was a buzz in the building because Tad Boyle's basketball program has already made more history.

Even though CU's 2012-13 opener is over two weeks away (Nov. 9), a record 5,005 season ticket packages have been sold. Actually, that number is old news this morning as the phones at the ticket office continue to ring.

"The inventory has been moving pretty briskly and every day it's incremental," said Matt Biggers, CU's new chief marketing officer.

A growing number of disgruntled fans are starting to see the glass as being half empty at Folsom Field with Jon Embree off to a depressing 4-16 start.

Meanwhile, the glass at the Coors Events Center is overflowing thanks to back-to-back 24-win campaigns and the Pac-12 Tournament championship in March.

CU sold a then-school record 3,941 season tickets last season. A lot of the interest a year ago was due to an opportunity to see new conference opponents like Arizona, Cal, Oregon and Washington in Boulder.

I remember asking Mike Bohn about a weak nonconference schedule that was played out in front of empty seats early in the Jeff Bzdelik era. The athletic director barked that fans should show up to watch CU play even if Boulder High School were the opponent.


Well, now they are lining up to watch the Buffs take on Wofford College.

"Anytime you can make history and continue to have a dramatic change in our culture associated with basketball, it's very humbling," Boyle said Tuesday. "We really recognize that our fans and their energy, particularly our students, have brought a competitive spirit that has made a big difference for us. It's a model we're obviously trying to emulate elsewhere."

According to research done by the Chronicle of Higher Education last year, CU had the greatest attendance gain over the previous four years of any Division I basketball program (2009 to 2012).

After averaging 4,637 fans during the 2008-09 season, CU averaged a program record 7,804 fans in 2011-12 (a 68 percent increase). St. John's was a distant second on the list with a 45 percent increase over the time frame.

The athletic department saw a 26 percent increase in season ticket sales last season, and reaching the 5,005 mark was a 27 percent increase from that.

If you do the math -- at least 5,005 season tickets plus 2,500 students -- there are only about 3,500 seats available. Biggers said all of the court-side seats are already sold out and that most of the season tickets sold were for premium seating.

The good news is cheaps seats -- as low as $60 for all 15 games -- are still available.

Demand for CU basketball tickets hasn't been this great since Balch Fieldhouse was packed with a 5,533 per game average during the 1954-55 Final Four season.

"I will repeat what Tad says: Until we have the Coors Events Center sold out before the season starts, we have work to do," Biggers said. "We can get there with the direction this program is going."

Even though Boyle has tried to temper expectations with only one senior and six freshmen on the roster, the young Buffs feel like they can't be beat at home.

No matter what opponent steps foot on Sox Walseth Court.

"People don't want to come here and play. The elevation and the crowd on top of that, it wears you down," sophomore guard Askia Booker said. "I give a big round of applause to our fans because those guys support us and keep us in games a lot of times."

Under Boyle, CU is a dominant 32-4 (.889) at the Coors Events Center.

Two of the losses were last-minute heart-breakers against ranked opponents during Boyle's first season, which was also CU's final season in the Big 12 -- 82-78 to No. 6 Kansas and 73-70 (overtime) to Texas A&M.

Last season the transitioning Buffs suffered two surprising losses in Boulder to Wyoming (65-54) and Stanford (74-50). CU will have opportunities to return the favor on Dec. 1 in Laramie and on Feb. 27 in Palo Alto (the Cardinal visits Boulder on Jan. 24).

"I can remember when CU was like a laughing stock for sports in general almost," said freshman forward Josh Scott, who led Lewis-Palmer High School to the 4A state title at the Coors Events Center while the Buffs were seizing the Pac-12 title in Los Angeles. "It's great to be a part of it becoming better and people actually being excited that it's coming around."

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