March 16, 2016

Louisville coach Jeff Walz is doing whatever he can to help the third-seeded Cardinals draw a huge crowd for their opening-round NCAA Tournament game Friday afternoon against Central Arkansas.

He offered Tuesday to email or call the boss of anyone who wanted to come to the game but couldn't because of work. He's already had 100 or so fans take him up on that, including someone in the mayor's office.

''Whoever sends me a note on Twitter or on Facebook - if they give me their boss' email - I'm writing them a note asking if they can make the ballgame,'' Walz said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Walz said that a fan in the city revenue commission's office reached out to him, so the veteran coach texted Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who is a friend. The mayor said, ''She'll be there for you Friday.''

Another fan reached out to Walz on Twitter, saying, ''Write me up a good excuse to leave work. I know I need to be there, the boss is the issue.''

Walz's response: Send me his or her email address. The coach followed through with a note to the boss.

''One of our most loyal fans ... is one of your employees and is scheduled to work on Friday,'' the letter said. ''I know you have a business to run but would it be possible for her to go out of office and promote Bluegrass Cellular at the Yum! Center Friday afternoon? Hope you will consider and have a great day!''

The woman's boss, who is a Kentucky fan, responded with a witty retort: ''Good afternoon, the Wildcat in me was leaning toward denying Cheryl's request. However, after receiving your thoughtful email, I have decided to relent and grant her request for time off.''

Walz helped solve other sorts of problems, too. A woman with a broken foot reached out to him on Twitter, and he set her up with accessible seats.

The Cardinals have averaged nearly 10,000 fans this season at home, yet only 5,000 tickets have been sold for Friday's game.

''It's a challenge having a 2:30 game on a Friday, so I'm trying to do what I can to get a lot of our season ticket holders here,'' Walz said. ''We're third in the country for attendance, and a 2:30 tip time obviously is a huge impact for those that work.''

With few time slots for women's games on ESPN, Louisville got slated in the earlier window.

''There are many variables that come into play when scheduling the first-round games of the women's NCAA championship, and we work with the NCAA to best create a schedule that considers the needs of the sites while maximizing exposure within the telecast window,'' said Lindsey Ross, ESPN's manager for programming and acquisitions.

This isn't the first time that Walz has done something to boost attendance at a game. In 2013, he offered to buy a drink for the first 2,500 fans.

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