The folks at the UCSB Intercollegiate Athletics Department Dept. have come up with a new gimmick in order to boost attendance at men’s basketball games. In case you haven’t heard, you too can win tuition free for the 2003-04 school year, all you need to do is attend the game, have your name called from the student directory, make it to the floor in two minutes’ time and sink a basket from the half-court line.

Now, it’s just bad business to play games of chance without knowing the odds. It can make all the difference in deciding whether to place your chips on black, red or just say screw it and spend your money at the bar. A year’s worth of tuition is a tempting draw, but before you do your stretches and loosen your wrist, let’s play the probability game.

First, you need to figure out your chances of making it to the floor during halftime. The average attendance for UCSB’s men’s basketball games this year runs about 2,361, so assume that tonight’s game draws that many of UCSB’s 19,799 students. The name picked comes from the A.S. student directory, which has about 13,200 student names.

The probability that you’ll be at the game (2,361/19,799) multiplied by the probability that you’re listed in the student directory (13,200/19,799) and the odds of being called (1/13,200) give you a 0.000006 chance in hell to sink a half-court basket.

So what are the odds of being talented enough to sink a basket from half-court? Well, let’s be generous to the NBA and, for the sake of simplifying the math, assume that every basketball player is as good an outside shooter as Larry Bird. We’ll even assume that you are as likely to be an NBA player as Bird was in his hometown of French Lick, Indiana.

Hold the jokes, please. It’s not nice to make fun of someone’s hometown, even if it happens to have a name that sounds like what gave your grandfather a venereal disease during World War II.

So, assuming you were from Blowjob, Ind. and went to high school with Larry Bird, there are 429 students in Bird’s class and 12 of them were on the basketball team. Your starting odds to make it to the NBA are 12/429. Now, Fellatio, Ind. did not send a Larry Bird to the NBA every year. In fact, Bird was the first guy who made it out in 46 years. So, your odds of being the NBA-bound hero of Paris Popsicle, Ind. are further reduced to 0.0006.

But hey, it could happen. Now, for argument’s sake, you’re as good a shot as Bird was from outside the three-point line in the 1984-85 season, where he sank 56 out of 131 three pointers.

You have a 0.42 chance of making it.

Of course, you only have a 0.000006 chance of being called, and that multiplied by your odds of being a NBA player and further multiplied by Larry Bird’s shooting abilities means you have about a one in 500,000,000 chance of getting free tuition next year.

But that’s just a rough estimate with much rounding of numbers and speculation. The fact that the average UCSB student probably was neither ever considered for the NBA nor has Bird’s talent, pushes the odds further in favor of UCSB’s Intercollegiate Athletics Dept.

Now for the test, kids, open book, open notes and calculators are more than welcome. You’ve got 10 minutes as soon as I say go.

Here’s the question: What are the chances you’ll get sucked into a cheap advertising gimmick and still have your parents paying for tuition next year?


Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus Opinion editor. Science Editor Josh Braun contributed to this column. They’re proof that nerds are cool.