Be it the three-year old First Four of the Opening Round Game before that, Dayton has been the “first stop” on college basketball’s journey to the Final Four for the last 13 years.
And with the NCAA in the process of deciding between 2-year and 10-year proposals by the city to keep the First Four in town, the Dayton community has made a commitment to sell out this year’s event.
In either format (Opening Round Game or First Four) the city has yet to sell out University of Dayton Arena, and the hope is that doing so in the 75th year of the NCAA tournament would convince the NCAA that this is where the tournament should begin every year.
“The University of Dayton is pleased to host the First Four games again this year, and we are honored with the confidence extended by the NCAA,” said Dayton president Daniel J. Curran in the release.
“The University has always enjoyed great support from the Dayton community. Already, basketball fans have stepped up and put us very close to an Arena sellout months before the tournament. We will continue working with the First Four Local Organizing Committee to enhance the experience for all First Four student-athletes and fans.”
The First Four has been a part of the NCAA tournament for just three seasons and Dayton, which according to city leaders will receive a boost in upwards of $10 million hosting the First Four and second/third round games this spring, has seen some history during that stretch:
In 2011, tournament Cinderella VCU’s journey started with a win in Dayton. Last year, the inaugural First Four Festival attracted more than 15,000 to downtown Dayton on Selection Sunday. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first heads of state to attend an NCAA tournament game when they joined fans at UD Arena for an opening-night game.
According to Andy Katz of ESPN.com the NCAA will make its decision within six to eight weeks, and frankly it would be a good move to leave the First Four in Dayton.
Sellout crowd or not the city has embraced its role in regards to the NCAA tournament, and it’s something Dayton hopes to do in the future as well.
“Feedback from the teams and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee make it obvious that community support is a critical factor in awarding future NCAA sites,” said Dayton vice president and AD Tim Wabler in the same statement.
“It has to be clear, no matter where any visitor travels in the Dayton area that week, that Dayton is the center of the college basketball world when the NCAA comes to town. We have the chance to cement the First Four in Dayton for years to come.
“It’s our goal to make Dayton as synonymous with the First Four as Omaha is with the College World Series.”
Photo credit: NCAA/University of Dayton