By: Emma Creekbaum – Staff Writer
The University of Dayton is ranked fifth in the nation according to the NCAA’s list of most passionate fans for men’s college basketball.
The NCAA announced Feb. 3 that UD, along with leading programs like Duke University and the University of Kentucky, made it on their “High Five” list.
“The fans there love their college hoops, and that passion is reciprocated towards the hometown Flyers as well,” NCAA.com said.
Junior sports management major Ryan Phillips is head of Red Scare this year. Red Scare is a UD organization of students that brings cheers and support to UD sporting events.
Phillips said Dayton wants to be in the same discussion as the other elite programs. “The official ranking by the NCAA adds some validity that Dayton is getting recognition,” Phillips said.
In February 2012, UD won the “Best Under-the-Radar College Basketball Atmosphere” presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Intersport, according to daytonflyers.com. UD Arena hosted the First Four for its 12th straight year in 2012. Now, three years later, the UD fanbase has been recognized as better than so many of the traditional college powerhouse programs’ die-hards.
“Because of the tournament run last year, a lot of people took notice and a lot of the average fans are coming out and starting to become fanatics,” Phillips said. “Bandwagon Dayton supporters are present in the UD Arena population more this year,” Phillips said.
During last year’s March Madness, UD Flyers made a spirited run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before being defeated by the University of Florida Gators.
UD basketball is an integral part of the larger Dayton community, and this run strengthened the local Flyer fans.
UD juniors Andrew Conroy, Christian Jensen and Charlie Schaefer all grew up in the Dayton area. They all were bitten with the UD spirit bug at an early age.
“If you’re from here you’re always connected UD with its basketball program,” Schaefer said. “But to say it got even more passionate is crazy, but it’s true.”
Schaefer said during Christmas break of 2014, after Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott were dismissed from the team, the older Dayton fans were more energized than usual during the basketball games. “Ever since those two left the team, the fans have kind of gotten around the team a lot more,” he said.
Christian Jensen said last season’s NCAA Tournament run has created an “elevated sense of excitement.”
“This year it seems there’s a little bit of extra energy in the air at every home game,” Jensen said.
Considering other sports at UD, there are still great turnouts for men and women’s soccer games as well as women’s volleyball games, said Shane Company, a UD football player and mechanical engineering major.
“I can see how other big schools could get upset over us getting the No. 5 spot, but given our size I think we’re more than deserving of it,” Company said.
The other “High Five” includes Syracuse University (No. 4), the University of Kentucky (No. 3), the University of Arizona (No. 2) and Duke University (No. 1), according to the rankings from the NCAA. Dayton may not claim as many national championships or All-American players as these other programs, but the Flyers men’s basketball fans are still coming out to games in large numbers to cheer for their team.