By: Andrew Koerner – Alumnus, Class of 2015
With a 68-67 overtime victory over Virginia Commonwealth University this past Saturday, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team clinched a share of the Atlantic-10 regular season title as well as the No. 1 seed in the A-10 tournament. Although the championship was not won outright, the Flyers should be, and I’m sure they are, very proud to have accomplished the goal they set out. I believe I can speak for a good portion of Flyer Nation when I say that we, the fans, expected greatness this season. Additionally, with an advantage like UD Arena, it’s hard not to expect this every season.
I’ve noticed some interesting things during Flyers’ games this season. First of all, at times it seemed the Flyers played better on the road, even in venues where the fans traditionally go insane cheering. I actually first noticed this last season, when the Flyers upset No. 22 VCU on the road and displayed a lot of the same grit they did last Saturday against the Rams. For the first half of the game at St. Bonaventure this season, the Flyers drubbed the Bonnies to a tune of 45-18. However, when the Bonnies came to UD arena a few weeks ago, the Flyers had no answer and lost 79-72 snapping a 20-game home conference winning streak.
Additionally, the Flyers lost two other home games. Half of the Flyers’ losses this season were at home. This is somewhat unfamiliar territory. The Flyers’ last loss of the season was at home against the University of Rhode Island, their third loss in four games. After URI made three straight three-pointers, the fans around me in section 204 became disengaged with 37 minutes left in the game. This was my first time attending a game as a non-student (although I probably could’ve walked down to the student section and joined since this game was over break). For these reasons—the recent loses and poor performances, the students’ break and the quick start by Rhode Island- the arena was understandably quiet.
To me, there is no excuse for this. I’ve attended many games over Christmas breaks during my time in college, and the Flyers actually won all of the games I attended for a two and a half year stretch. They weren’t all in front of a sellout crowd, but they sure felt like it to me.
Winning so many games can make a team soft and what has been reported numerous times is that losing streaks can wane your confidence. What I observed during the Rhode Island game was not only a basketball team struggling with confidence, but a community of fans struggling with confidence as well.
The “Dayton Sixth” mantra rings true in so many ways—the crowd really does help this team perform on a higher level. Archie seemed to know this before even setting foot on campus. For this team to succeed and pull out wins during games when they’re fighting mental and physical fatigue and some kid you’ve never heard of on the opposing team is shooting lights out, the fans at UD Arena need to cheer as loudly and passionately as they do when the team is firing on all cylinders.
I understand when I turn 50 someday I will probably not be screaming and jumping as much as I did as a student, but what I saw during the Rhode Island game was pathetic. I can’t tell Archie how to coach his team, but I can certainly tell the fans they need to at least CLAP when we score or make a play on defense. You don’t have to yell until your lungs give out like I do, but as long as the “Dayton Sixth” mantra is in place, you have to stick with the team and do basic things like stand up when Charles Cooke is at half court raising his arms asking for noise. The Flyers actually started to make big plays on defense once a mass exodus of people started to head for the doors with 15 minutes left. Eventually, Dayton cut URI’s lead to six.
Hopefully, that game was a rare experience. I’ve met several people around UD who refer to those who won’t stand during games as “the sweaters” for obvious reasons. My fellow Flyers, when you reach alumni status, and maybe even season-ticket-holder status, do not forget where you came from: the raucous, passionate fan base that is the Red Scare and you are just as much a part of the team as the players are. If we can do that, there’s no reason to think there won’t be more championships down the road. And when you get to be that age, I ask you not to wear a sweater but a jersey.