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POLLOCK: Bills’ fans continue to show loyalty

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Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 12:00 am

A couple of updates on the Bills and a former Wellsville softball star:

IT ONLY confuses Bills' fans even more, but the team made a remarkable announcement early this week.

Start with the fact Buffalo's first three home games are sellouts - Tampa Bay (Sept. 20), New Orleans (Sept. 27) and Cleveland (Oct. 11).

That's not a stunner and tickets to those games remain for anyone buying a season ticket.

The reason for the sellouts is that season-ticket holders were allowed to buy group and individual seats last Thursday and Friday.

The surprise, though, is that 52,134 season tickets - sixth-most in team history - have already been sold and their sale will continue until Aug. 15, the date of the Kids' day pre-season game promotion against Chicago, over two months from now.

Buffalo's all-time season ticket record is 57,132 in 1992 with last year's 56,011 second. With over nine weeks to go, this season's total figures to be close to those numbers.

As of now, the four regular-season home games to which individual tickets are still available - not counting the Dec. 3 meeting with the Jets in Toronto - are Houston (Nov. 1), Miami (Nov. 29), New England (Dec. 20) and Indianapolis (Dec. 3).

The confusion for Bills' fans?

Rumors of the team's move to Toronto following the 2012 season when the stadium lease expires, or after owner Ralph Wilson's passing, seem incongruous for a team that so often produces sellouts despite being the NFL's third-smallest market.

But, other than the god-awful teams of the mid-80s, attendance has never been a problem for Buffalo. And, with the stadium capacity having gone from a high of 80,290 to the current 73,967, sellouts have only gotten easier.

With over 52,000 season tickets sold, that means under 22,000 seats must be moved to sell out an individual game, a very reasonable number.

The problem, therefore, isn't fans, but rather finance.

Bills' tickets are the NFL's lowest priced and the team, in a market of declining population and hemorrhaging economy, can't charge enough to generate the revenue the franchise needs to remain competitive in a league catering to the big-money teams.

Hence, the predictions of gloom.

But this year's numbers reaffirm Bills' fans - whose team hasn't made the playoffs since 1999 and is coming off three straight 7-9 seasons - are keeping up their part of the bargain.

THAT WELLSVILLE softball player?

It's Jennifer Richardson, now an assistant in the athletic development office at Rutgers.

Recently, Matt Muzza, a graduate assistant in the Binghamton University sports information office, wrote a story for the school's athletic web site about Bearcats' softball players who are now working in the sports field.

Among the six he profiled was Richardson, a 2003 graduate, who started at Binghamton when it was a Division II school and helped usher the program to D-I status.

She told Muzza, "Without (the) opportunities at Binghamton, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am so grateful I was able to have that opportunity to first of all play sports and second to have a quality education and then also gain experience in a field that I was interested in."

Muzza noted in his story, "Richardson's successful playing career is evident in her honors, as she was not only an all-conference pick in Division II but was also one of the first Bearcats to earn Division I all-conference accolades in the America East in 2002.

"During her undergraduate years she completed an internship and after graduation, was hired as a graduate assistant in development in Binghamton's athletic department. After she earned her master's degree she was employed full-time in the development office, and held that position until moving on to become an assistant director of athletic development for the Scarlet R Club at Rutgers."

He concluded, "Richardson has been at Rutgers for three years now … working with donors and alumni. She lets the donors know how their gifts specifically impact the student-athletes, their career aspirations and fulfillment of the dream of playing college sports."

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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