- Kyle Nagel Staff Writer
With the First Four in town, UD Arena will extend its reign as the NCAA tournament’s most frequent host.
After those four, UD Arena will have been the site for 121 tournament games (and that’s not counting 15 NCAA women’s basketball tournament games). The next most common host, Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium, held 83 games from 1940-64.
Said North Carolina coach Roy Williams in 2006, “They’ve done it well enough that people keep asking them to do it again.”
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So why have so many games been played here? Here are seven reasons:
1. UD’s success spurred the new building in 1969. After Dayton advanced to the 1967 NCAA tournament championship game, plans were set for a new arena for UD. At the time, the Flyers played in the old Fieldhouse, which sat just more than 5,800. The new arena gave Dayton a bigger, updated arena, which made it a more attractive city for basketball.
2. When the new arena opened, the athletic director was in a great position. Tom Frericks, Dayton’s athletic director at the time, was a member of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee, which determined where games in the NCAA tournament would be played. In the new arena’s first year, it hosted two games, a Notre Dame victory against Ohio University and Jacksonville victory against Western Kentucky.
Bill Hancock, one the director of the NCAA tournament, recalled Frericks’ influence recently in an interview with USA Today:
"More than anyone else, Tom brought the tournament to Dayton and brought Dayton to the tournament. And I don't know who the bigger winner was."
3. Big crowds came (and still come) to the games. Dayton averaged 12,982 in attendance per game in 1969-70, the arena’s first year. Then when the first two NCAA tournament games came in 1970, the building jammed 13,458 people in to watch. Nearly 12,000 people per game (11,968) have attended the 113 NCAA tournament games at UD Arena through 2016.
4. The staff learned what the NCAA wanted and provided it. Legend has it that NCAA officials once adopted the game guidelines set by Frericks and his staff and their de facto hosting manual. In later years, executives charged with operating the arena worked closely with NCAA officials and, as NCAA officials said on multiple occasions, became models for working on tournament games.
From a 2006 Dayton Daily News article:
A few years ago, as it does every year, the NCAA held a meeting in Indianapolis for schools that were tournament hosts and those that wanted to be.
After awhile, someone stood up and asked the NCAA representative what his school would have to do to be awarded first- and second-round games.“The answer was, ‘Why don’t you talk to Tim O’Connell?’ ” said Ted Kissell, the University of Dayton athletic director, speaking about his associate AD and UD Arena’s executive director. “They said no one does it better than him.”
5. Some changes have been made for better event experience. That includes upgrades to the video boards and changes to the football locker room inside the arena to make it flexible as a room used for tournament tasks, like media. Underlining the importance UD places on being a good postseason host, former athletic director Tim Wabler once told a story about how the school considers its facilities changes. From a 2009 Dayton Daily News article:
In the mid-1990s, when the University of Dayton was considering a $5 million addition to its basketball arena, Tim Wabler flew to Kansas City, Mo.
Then an associate athletic director, he met with NCAA officials.
“I said, ‘What do you need us to do to service the NCAA model as far as postseason play?’ ” said Wabler, now UD’s athletic director. “We wanted to be clear on that for any addition we made.”
The project, which became the Donoher Center, underlines UD’s commitment to continue to bid competitively for and host NCAA tournament games. In almost every decision the university makes about the arena, officials consider what use the change could have for the NCAA tournament, Wabler said
6. The community organizes events around the games. A local group, Dayton Hoopla, is comprised of Dayton business leaders and organizes events surrounding the games. Teams have also been welcomed to their hotels with their colors on display and banners, and businesses throughout the area hang signs greeting visitors for the event.
7. It doesn’t hurt that the president has been here. That happened in 2012, when President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron attended the First Four.