A high-ranking NCAA official said Wednesday there is no other site in the country that offers what the city of Dayton and the University of Dayton Arena can when it comes to hosting the First Four.
Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, said the NCAA’s main goal with the tournament is to provide the best experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.
UD Arena and Dayton have been able to provide hospitality, commitment and enthusiasm for the First Four, he said.
“There’s not another suitor out there right now that offers the opportunity that Dayton does,” Gavitt said in an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News on Wednesday.
The official attendance for Tuesday’s First Four games was 12,027, and a similar crowd was expected for Wednesday’s games, First Four Local Organizing Committee and NCAA officials said. LIU Brooklyn faced James Madison in the first game Wednesday, followed by Boise State and La Salle to cap off the two-day event.
“It’s the passion for college basketball that fans have here,” he said. “To sell out (the First Four) this year is a remarkable accomplishment. The central location is a benefit as well. Being in the middle of the country gives us a better chance to get teams in here more easily. And the history of the tournament here. It’s a great place to start the tournament.”
About 12,700 tickets were sold for each night. The LOC and its partners bought 6,000 tickets for each night to share with the community.
J.P. Nauseef, chair of the LOC, said a positive message has been sent to the country and NCAA that the First Four belongs in Dayton.
“Selling out the arena is another piece of evidence for the NCAA that we’re not just about buying the tickets or coming to the games,” Nauseef said. “The spirit and character of the community are on display. That’s rare, unique and special. We know the NCAA has a lot of decisions. We just hope this adds to the case that Dayton is the right place for this.”
UD Arena — which has hosted more NCAA tournament games than any other venue — will have seen 101 games tip-off by the end of the weekend.
The arena has been the site of the Opening Round game since its inception in 2001, and the First Four since 2011. The First Four will be in Dayton through at least 2015, and UD has submitted a proposal to the NCAA to keep the event for 10 more years.
Gavitt said First Four discussions will happen this summer as part of the men’s basketball committee meetings. He didn’t specify when a decision will be made.
“With a long, extended agreement like that, we’ll weigh the pluses and minuses on that kind of arrangement,” Gavitt said. “We’re anxious to evaluate and provide some feedback.”
Gavitt said there were other cities that bid for the 2014 and 2015 First Four, but Dayton “really won on merits, the bid process, history and commitment.” He could not recall the other cities that bid.
The NCAA preliminarily has determined 2014 and 2015 sites for second- and third-round games as well as for regionals, but UD is not one of them, although it will be “back in the rotation soon,” Gavitt said.