The link between University of Dayton basketball and the Dayton community is a phenomenon I feel only few communities in this country have.
I’m an alumnus and a lifelong fan, but my life hasn’t been long enough to appreciate the full scope of this relationship. I know bits and pieces of the 1950s and 1960s powerhouse programs, with NIT wins (when the NIT mattered) and numerous successes in the NCAA tournament. My earliest recollection — probably from my mom and dad who are lifelong season ticket holders — is the triple overtime loss to Bill Walton’s UCLA in 1974. Johnny Davis was on that team, and he was my first UD basketball hero. From there, the memories build, from the teams of Jim Paxson (although Erv Giddings was my guy) to Roosevelt Chapman (my personal, all-time favorite) to Negele Knight (I graduated the same year) to Brian Roberts and Chris Johnson (the most under-appreciated Flyer great, in my opinion).
Every once in a while, a UD team comes out of nowhere, exceeding pre-season expectations and capturing the imagination and hearts of our city. Before this year’s 2013–2014 edition, it was the 2008–2009 team that took the city on a ride. And when I witness the excitement that permeates Dayton, I really can’t help but reflect on why it matters so much. I think it comes down to three things:
1. UD loves Dayton — I can’t imagine there are many universities that care about their city more than UD. When you consider the investments they make, the partnerships they build — both for-profit and not-for-profit — and the image building they do on behalf of this city, it’s astounding how much UD has invested in making Dayton a strong, vibrant community.
2. Their basketball teams reflect the character of the city — I was at the final regular season game from the 2008–2009 season and I’ll never forget how the team ran up and down the aisles of the stadium after the game, thanking the fans for their support. Like most UD teams, they were composed of three-star recruits the big programs didn’t want, but they consistently outworked, out-hustled and beat more talented teams, like West Virginia, in the first round of the NCAAs. This year’s 2013–2014 team is very similar. Undersized and under-appreciated, they simply outwork bigger, faster, more talented teams. Did you see that defensive effort against mighty Syracuse? Dayton is a small, hard-working and important city in the Midwest. While not home to four- and five-star corporations, Dayton continues to be a hotbed of hard-working, hustling three-star businesses that consistently outperform glitzier competitors.
3. Things are kept in perspective — Having attended UD from 1986 to 1990, I had the privilege of witnessing the magical 1989–1990 season where UD advanced to the second round of the NCAAs. While there were certainly big-time players on that team, the players and coaches were part of the campus fabric. The players weren’t NBA-hopeful, one-and-done players, but real kids who worked on homework and projects with other students. They attended the same parties and just hung out like the rest of us. It was really fun to watch all the senior basketball players walk up to get their degrees at graduation. This is a town that values real people with real lives. Too much glam might make Daytonians a little uncomfortable; I doubt a one-and-done style basketball program would work in this town.
It’s this connection that makes it so much fun when UD basketball catches lightning in a bottle like they have this year. It’s hard to imagine too many cities enjoy the kind of relationship the university and its basketball team have forged with Dayton over many decades. And if we take out Stanford Thursday, well, the bond just gets that much tighter.
So wear your UD T-shirt to all your meetings this Thursday. Work a little harder to outperform your big city competitors. Then find a good spot to enjoy this year’s edition of the UD-Dayton tradition do the same to Stanford. #GOUD. #BeatStanford. #EliteEightHereWeCome.
Guest Contributor: Chris Eifert, principal, TriComB2B
Chris’ 15 years of experience in sales, product management and new product development bring a practical, hands-on perspective to clients’ marketing requirements. Chris held several marketing and product management positions at industrial and technology companies where he implemented marketing programs for new product launches as well as existing products and services. Chris received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton.