Mark Massari was making his way from Portland to Corvallis a couple weeks back when he decided to make a pit stop in North Albany for a pick-me-up at a coffee shop.
While in line, he had a conversation with a gentleman who had been wounded serving in the military.
Massari, who recently returned to Oregon State as the Beavers’ deputy athletics director, eventually gave the man his card and told him he wanted him to call him to get tickets to a football game.
After thinking about it, Massari realized he not only wanted that military member to enjoy a Saturday of football and all that goes with the experience, but he wanted as many as possible.
That feeling spurred a new initiative for an outreach program at OSU called BeaversSalute.
The Beavers plan to give out up to 1,000 free tickets to any veteran or active military personnel at select football games this season.
Saturday’s 1 p.m. season opener against Portland State is the first such event.
Tickets (up to four per family) will be handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. They can be reserved by calling the ticket off at 1-800-462-3287 or in person at the ticket office in Gill Coliseum from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. the rest of this work week.
“We want to make sure they know that we appreciate them and their hard word and their sacrifice and service,” Massari said.
One reason behind the outreach is to provide an opportunity for more people to experience the campus and all the university stands for, Massari said.
He said the university wants to make sure “the state of Oregon knows we want them involved.”
“Athletic teams that represent the university are a big front porch to a wonderful university,” Massari said.
“We want any group that has the opportunity to come to a game to experience the whole thing.”
Typically, Massari said, the general rule in marketing is you come up with a concept, a brand and maybe an identifying graphic with it.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Massari wanted to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later.
Saturday’s game seemed the logical start.
With school not in session until the end of September, there are usually plenty of student tickets available.
And it’s Labor Day weekend, a time to celebrate the hard work people put in throughout the year.
“I feel our brand is we’re the people’s program,” Massari said. He noted OSU is a land grant school and is for “hard-working, authentic fans.”
The outreach won’t necessarily be limited to football. While in its infancy, Massari wants to see it expand to other sports, but those details aren’t finalized just yet.
One idea is to pick a couple basketball games and reserve 1,000-2,000 seats — and not just to ones against the less-attractive opponents.
But until then, Massari is excited about the outreach. Close to 100 tickets had already been claimed by noon Monday.
For those who have taken or will take advantage of the opportunity, Massari knows what he would suggest they do on Saturday.
“They should walk in from Monroe Street, they should feel football in the air, they should see how gorgeous our buildings are,” he said. “After four minutes of a walk, they can already feel football in the air, smell the tailgates. Why would you not want to celebrate that?”