By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. — It has become a finals week tradition at Oklahoma State with OSU students taking a break from studying to get free pancakes at the student union.
On Tuesday night, those who showed up early didn't just have any normal volunteer handing them the late-night hotcakes. Instead, it was none other that OSU men's basketball coach Travis Ford slaving over the hot pans full of griddle cakes, wishing students good luck on their finals.
"This is a blast, whether I'm the basketball coach or not," Ford said. "I enjoy doing this. It's fun to see. This is what college is all about for these kids, taking study breaks and everything. For the university to do this is amazing, where they had close to 1,500 to 2,000 (Monday) night and probably more (Tuesday) night, and it's great that the students are taking advantage of it."
It was the latest in Ford's attempt to get out and interact with OSU students to promote his up-and-coming program, ranked No. 24 in the nation. Last week, Ford, along with stars Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart, walked around the union handing out fliers to promote their game against South Florida.
Witnessing the Oklahoma State students lining up in droves to take advantage of the free pancakes sent Ford down memory lane to his time in college at the University of Missouri and the University of Kentucky.
"It was a long time ago, but it doesn't seem that long ago. But I can remember needing a study break like this," Ford said. "It really does take me back. It makes you feel young again, it really does."
While the OSU coach was dishing up the tasty treats, it took him some willpower to avoid helping himself to some pancakes.
"I'm trying to hold back. I tried to eat before I came because I love pancakes," Ford said. "I could sit here and eat that whole pan if I wanted to. But I figured I better serve the students first."
Ford's attempts to connect with the community of late may be paying off. It was announced by the OSU athletic department on Wednesday that the 4,000 tickets purchased by Boone Pickens to be given away to OSU fans for free had taken just 90 minutes to be scooped up for the New Year's Eve game against Gonzaga. The nationally-televised contest between the two Top 25 teams will officially go down as a sellout for Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"Just about every student that's come through welcomed me for coming out, wished our team good luck," Ford said. "It's great to hear. It's always good to hear positive comments. (The students) have done just a great job giving to us, that this was just an opportunity for me to give back to them and spend some time with students at a very important time."