Obama Family, Actor Bill Murray Watch TU Fall to Oregon State
You'd think the L.A. Lakers had transported its court to Towson University judging by the celebrities in attendance.
(Updated: 6:06 p.m.) For some fans at the Towson Center Arena on Saturday, the fact that there was a basketball game going on may not have been the first thing on their minds.
What the fans got in Towson University's men's basketball home opener against Oregon State included many big names, including President Barack Obama and family, actor Bill Murray, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, former Congressman Tom McMillen and San Antonio Spurs star (and former Tiger) Gary Neal.
The dignitaries were among a crowd of 3,119 who watched the Tigers (0-5) fall to the Oregon State Beavers (5-1), 66-46.
The Obamas were on hand to cheer on the Beavers and coach Craig Robinson, First Lady Michelle Obama's brother. The president and first lady sat courtside, while daughters Sasha and Malia sat nearby.
Murray was there to watch the home debut of his son, Luke, a Towson assistant coach. He occasionally posed for photos with fans in the stands.
At one point, Murray walked over to meet the president (The Baltimore Sun has video). Obama also posed for a photo with the Towson University football team following a halftime presentation of their Colonial Athletic Association championship trophy.
Security was tight at the Towson Center as fans were required to pass through metal detectors and Secret Service agents could be seen posted throughout the arena.
The game against Oregon State came about as a result of good planning and a little luck. Oregon State was looking for a game after completing its run through the TicketCity Legends Championship, and Towson was looking for a big home opener.
"We wanted to have something special for our fans because it's been a tough 15-year run here," said Towson athletic director Mike Waddell, referring to Towson's track record on the court.
Waddell added that Towson is signed for two games at Oregon State in upcoming seasons.
The Obamas have attended nearby Oregon State games before, at George Washington in 2009 and Howard in 2010. Waddell said he was eager to schedule the game with those famous fans in mind, but it wasn't until last Friday that Waddell's office got word from the White House that Obama would indeed be attending the game, the closest Oregon State will get to Washington, DC this season.
What followed were meetings, phone calls, emails, Secret Service visits and even a Friday test run by Marine One. The president's helicopter landed on a lacrosse and soccer practice field near Towson Center.
Robinson and his players are used to the attention. Some of them have played in front of the president three times. And despite the pressure, it was just another game for Towson and its first against a Pac-12 conference foe.
It was "a great atmosphere for a college basketball game," said first-year Coach Pat Skerry. "Hopefully that's something that can become the norm here at Towson University."
"It was really exciting as far as the president coming, but basketball is always exciting to me," said sophomore forward Marcus Damas, who had a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. "Coach did a good job of preparing us for the game."
Towson's preparation showed early in the game, as they led or tied with the Beavers until the second half of the first period. The Beavers' Challe Barton dropped a three with 6:56 left in the first to bring the score to 20-18, and Oregon State never looked back, at one point leading by 24 points.
The Tigers out-rebounded Oregon State, 38-23, but committed 21 turnovers to Oregon State's 10. Four Beavers players scored in the double digits.
"Until we rectify as a staff and what the players do taking care of the basketball, we're going to have some long nights," Skerry said.
If you have photos of the president and his family or Murray, add them to this story.
ORIGINAL POST: Nov. 25, 7:55 p.m.
President Barack Obama and his family will attend a Saturday basketball game atTowson University, the school announced Friday.
The Obamas will be at the Towson Center Arena to watch the Towson Tigers men's basketball team take on the Oregon State Beavers, coached by First Lady Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson.
The university encourages fans to arrive early for the game, due to the anticipated crowds and security measures. The gates to the Towson Center Arena will open at noon, and fans must be in their seats by 1:45 p.m. for the 2 p.m. tipoff.
Obama will be the first president to visit Towson University, according to Waddell.
The Obamas have traveled to see Oregon State's games in the Washington, DC, area, most recently to George Washington in 2009 and Howard in 2010.
Towson is the Beavers' final East Coast stop this season, and the closest they'll get to DC. Oregon State (4-1) is coming off a trip to East Rutherford, NJ, for the TicketCity Legends Classic Championship, where it beat Texas 100-95 in overtime, then lost to Vanderbilt, 64-62.
Robinson was hired as head coach in 2008.
First-year coach Pat Skerry's young Towson (0-4) team—which returned no starters from last year's lineup—comes home after a tough stretch that included nationally-ranked Kansas, Michigan and Belmont in the mainland round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
The game will be broadcast on WBAL-AM and ESPN3.com.