What could-have-been for UD basketball with their Flyer Family in the stands this year? Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn – Flyer News.
Thomas Lofaro | Contributing Writer
When people think about men’s basketball at the University of Dayton they think about loyal fans and the electric atmosphere of UD Arena. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the UD Arena to close its doors to thousands of Flyer fans and the 20-21 season was far from usual.
Fans were forced to find ways to watch games from their homes and were not able to give the Flyers the home court advantage they have grown accustomed to over the years.
The Flyer community was not only robbed of an entire season of basketball games, but also missed out on the much anticipated finish of the 2019-2020 men’s basketball season. UD Arena has not held fans at full capacity since March 7, 2020, the same day ESPN’s College Gameday came to town.
UD students and members of the ‘Red Scare’ have shown their frustration when it comes to not being able to attend men’s basketball games. Colin Cady, a senior finance major at UD is one of many Flyer fans who wished that their final year at the school could have included going to UD games.
“It is what it is,” Cady said. “It would have been nice to attend games this year, but, at the same time, there are a lot of things that [seniors] missed out on this year.”
There is a lot of speculation around campus about the lack of success of the men’s basketball team this past season in correlation with the lack of fan attendance.
“I do not think there is any doubt that the team would have performed better had there been fans in UD Arena,” said Cady. “Dayton has one of the, if not the best college basketball atmospheres in the nation, losing that definitely did not help them.”
After accumulating a 29-2 record during the 2019-2020 season, the men’s basketball team fell off quite a bit in 2020-2021, finishing the year with a 14-10 record. Although they lost star player Obi Toppin to the NBA, they still had a collection of quality players like Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson.
In 2019-2020 the team’s home record was 17-0, while in 2020-2021, the Flyers had an 8-3 record at home. The three losses this year perhaps could have been prevented had COVID-19 not prohibited UD Arena from allowing full capacity at UD games.
UD Arena at full capacity allows 13,409 fans at games, but because of the pandemic, this year only 300 spectators were allowed at games. This many fans at home games did not allow for the full home court advantage UD is used to.
Joe Burrow, Heisman trophy winner and current starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, was one of the few hundred spectators at a home game on February 5 when the Flyers defeated George Mason 74-65. It would have been interesting to see how fans reacted to seeing Burrow in the Arena had there been allowed a higher attendance that night.
Some teams also play well when playing in hostile environments, which raises the question of whether UD would have played better in opposing arenas.
Hopefully by next season, UD Arena, along with opposing arenas, will be able to let in a lot more fans for UD games, which will contribute to the success of next year’s squad.