AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating wanted to do everything he could to ensure a full house at the Leavey Center for Saturday night's game with No. 10 Gonzaga.
With school still out for the holiday break until Monday and on-campus dormitories closed until Sunday, Keating offered $100 hotel reimbursements from his own bank account to those students who live on campus but had nowhere to stay Saturday night.
A dozen students took advantage of the offer sharing four rooms, including freshman Maribel Alcazar. She lives in Gilroy, about an hour away, and doesn't have a car at college. Her parents were unable to drive her to and from school Saturday, then do so again one day later. Her mom noticed Keating's offer on the Internet, and Alcazar jumped on the unique chance by calling the basketball office. She was to stay in a double suite with three other young women.
"I was super surprised," said Alcazar, who attends most games as a member of the student spirit group Ruff Riders. "I originally thought the school would reimburse him. I'm really glad he's so willing to do something like that. The game is sold out and a lot of students were disappointed the dorms wouldn't be open. We're really appreciative he's doing this out of his own pocket."
Santa Clara, which entered the sold-out game at 12-3, is off to the program's best start since 1997-98.
"We need all their energy," Keating said leading up to the game. "And if any of them read this and any of them want to stay here and can't have a room on campus. I want them to personally call the office and I will reimburse them up to $100 for a hotel room."
Some upper classmen who did have their own off-campus housing were equally as appreciative of Keating's gesture given it would make the student section that much more effective and loud for a game every school in the West Coast Conference looks forward to on the home schedule _ seeing the mighty Zags and trying for an upset.
In fact, junior Ryan Tursi had never heard of anything like this being done at any school, in any sport.
"I thought it was absolutely awesome for Coach Keating to do that," Tursi said. "Here we are at one of the biggest games of the year. It's in the spirit of the school, of being a person with and for others. He represents that. I was blown away. I have never heard of a coach doing it. He's trying to get the students in the stands, and he has always tried to give back to the students."
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