When I wondered last week in this space if we’ll ever see a resumption of the Gem City Jam men’s college basketball series after this current 20-year pause, the deluge of response surprised me.
Sentiment broke mostly along party lines, with faithful University of Dayton fans brushing the notion aside like lint from an overcoat and Wright State supporters wondering what they did to earn such disdain from the venerable school across town.
One longtime UD season-ticket holder wrote:
“I’m not anti-Wright State as my wife and son are both graduates, but the game doesn’t do anything for us. We used to attend Wright State games in the old gym when Ralph (Underhill) was coaching there but then they built the non-fan-friendly Nutter Center. No parking and steps down to and up from the floor.
“Why don’t you do an article about the Nutt and give credit to the idiots who approved the design?”
Can’t say I ever perceived the Nutter Center to be an impediment to reviving the UD-WSU series, except maybe for the fact that WSU rarely comes close to filling it. But the game would be a hot ticket regardless of venue, some of the proceeds could go to charity and this area could call itself a basketball hotbed and actually be telling the truth for once.
Too much opposition, though, judging by reader comments like this one:
“Come on Sean, it’s a nice idea to have a game between Dayton and Wright State. However, such a game would have to benefit all parties. Why should UD risk losing an NCAA bid by lowering their RPI or God forbid losing to Wright State. … I like the idea for this rivalry. However, it only makes sense if the two teams are reasonably close in rankings much like Xavier and Cincinnati. As a fan I would enjoy watching a hometown series. Unfortunately, it has to make sense on several levels for both universities.”
Wright State indeed needs to pick up the pace a bit. The Raiders and the Horizon League are not quite on the level, to say the least, of UD and the Atlantic 10. But in a given year, although the almighty RPI rankings might tell a different story, the gap between the programs doesn’t seem all that vast. The Raiders, in fact, have been contending for the NCAA Tournament the past few years, falling one win short in three of the last four.
Maybe new coach Scott Nagy, armed with a contract that pays him $500,000 per year, can bring WSU further up the national pecking order in the coming years. Then we’ll see how much RPI or strength of schedule truly matter in keeping the schools apart or whether other factors, such as UD’s fear of losing to the commuter school across town, might carry more weight than many believe.