By: Keith Raad – Staff Writer
The University of Dayton belongs in the new Big East Conference.
It’s a perfect, and necessary fit. Being a really good mid-major school only goes so far with students and means even more less to the NCAA Division I community.
Historically, Dayton has always been a basketball-centric city that has successful ties with former head coaches Don Donoher and Tom Blackburn. These were good basketball teams.
Current head coach Archie Miller could be, and should be, the next name on that list. He needs the amphitheater. He needs the arena (pardon the pun).
Archie Miller has been at the University of Arizona with his brother, Sean Miller. He knows not only how to coach a successful basketball team, but to be part of something bigger than that. He can grow a program and that comes with recruiting.
Dayton is an easy sell to any basketball player. Games with 13,435 fans against any opponent, whether it’s Winthrop University or the University of Mississippi, is an easy incentive to work with when recruiting. For the first time in school history, Dayton recruited two top-125 prospects, according to Rivals.com. That’s moving in the right direction.
Paul Hewitt, head coach at George Mason University, noted in an interview with CBS Sports that when GMU joined the Atlantic 10 Conference, he and his staff had to switch their whole recruiting process. He told interviewer Jon Rothstein, “some of these guys may not be good enough for where we’re going.”
Miller has already been engrained with that mentality, and is a step ahead of the curve. That’s having leadership and an identity.
Dayton is the right school that has the fan base. Sure, Xavier University is down the road and adding Dayton does not expand the Big East’s TV market, but it’s not just about that option.
Being a Dayton Flyer can feel like having a disease. It is a crazy, but loyal fan base. Travel to a Dayton-Fordham basketball game at the Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx, N.Y. Chances are, there are more Dayton fans there than Fordham fans. Watch the Maui Invitational this Thanksgiving from Nov. 25 through Nov. 27. Waves of Flyer fans will travel. They’ll fly to Hawaii. It’s a culture. It’s in the water. It’s engrained in the soul.
Because that’s the school. Cheesy and cliché as it sounds, being a Flyer does not end at graduation. It’s why this school needs more of a national name than it has in 2013. Dayton is not just a run-of-the-mill private school in southwest Ohio. It’s a fan base. It’s a culture. It can be even more.
And, it’s not just men’s basketball.
When the Flyer’s women’s basketball team, through their romping of their schedule last season, played the University of Richmond on ESPNU last season, the color commentator made a comment about Dayton. Christy Winters-Scott, a former University of Maryland basketball player, said something along the lines of Dayton not making any noise in the upcoming tournament.
Even though Dayton went 28-3 last season beating two ranked teams? But what happened to the Flyers? They lost in the second round to the University of Kentucky after winning a double-overtime game against site host and 10-seed St. John’s University. Sure, the team got stiffed on a good seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s what a mid-major, even one that’s successful and ranked, team has to deal with – no respect.
The point is, it’s the respect level the school does not receive.
For the men’s basketball team, the National Invitational Tournament is a thing of the past. It’s like saying, “Thanks grandpa, I know you walked uphill both ways to get to school in the snow, I get it. Get with the times. Strive for more.”
The NCAA Tournament is the place. It’s what the world watches in March. Let’s be part of it. Hats off to Virginia Commonwealth University and Butler University for making small improvements in the conference to become household names. Butler went from the Horizon League to the A10 and now to the Big East in a matter of three years. Oh, and their former head coach now does the same for the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
In the beginning, it’ll be difficult, but with the right leadership at the helm of the school’s top programs, it sure as hell won’t be the elephant in the room. Not with the following this school has built for the past 160 years.
Like it was when George Costanza got a job with the New York Yankees: ‘Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle…Costanza?’