NCAA Basketball Tournament
March Madness is here, and it all get's started today with the First Four at the University of Dayton arena. Hosting the First Four is a real boom for the area as it provides entertainment, economic benefits and prestige to the University and the City.
According to Wikipedia, the first First Four was actually started as a “First One” in 2001 when the Mountain West Conference, which had been formed in 1999 following the split of the Western Athletic Conference, was given an automatic bid for its conference champion, which made it the 31st conference to receive an automatic berth into the men's tournament. The organizers of the NCAA tournament elected to keep their at-large entries at 34. In order to eliminate one of the teams to have a 64-team bracket, it became necessary for another game to be played between the two lowest-ranked teams among the automatic bid leagues. Dayton was hosting a first round game anyway, so they were asked to host the play-in game, and the rest is history!
In that first game, Northwestern State beat Winthrop 71-67 to earn the right to play No. 1 seed Illinois. By 2010, four play-in games were scheduled, thus the First Four moniker came about. This Washington Post article has much more on the topic.
I distinctly recall UD Arena, as it was being build 50 years ago, collapsing due to high winds during the steel framing process. Photo above. Fortunately, after a short delay, construction progressed successfully.
|1966-67 University of Dayton Flyers|
Flyer coach Don Donoher (far left second row) remembered that Frericks was “ecstatic” and exultantly declared after the big win over Virginia Tech to get to the Final Four, “I just want to announce, here and now, tonight, we just built the UD Arena.”
This excerpt from Daytonareahistory.org provides more details: "Frericks was talking about the yet to be built University of Dayton Arena. Before that night in 1967 Frericks had worked with limited success trying to drum up interest in build a larger venue for the team. At the time the university’s basketball team played in the Fieldhouse but it could only seat half of those wanting to see the games. Just as he anticipated, however, the team’s victory that night changed many minds inside the school. School administrators were coming to see that a successful basketball program made good business sense for the school. As the 1960s ushered in a period of growing competition for students across the country, attention-grabbing sports programs were becoming important to making the university competitive. An impressive venue was needed in order to have a successful basketball program. Authorized to spend up to $4 million dollars on a new Arena, Frericks sought to forge a partnership with the City of Dayton.”
Major renovations costing $42m, 10 times the cost of the original arena, shown above are scheduled for completion by the start of next basketball season. This upgrade no doubt will allow Dayton to host the First Four for many more years to come. Enjoy March Madness!
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