Thursday March 2, 2017

Marching into Madness

By Eric F. Spina

After the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team clinched the Atlantic 10 title on Wednesday night, I found myself happily immersed in a sea of jubilant students on the Arena floor as the winningest class in school history cut down the net.

Just moments before, guards Kyle Davis and Scoochie Smith waded into the Red Scare section to celebrate with their classmates, who spontaneously hoisted them in the air. The team, arms around each other, swayed with the students and sang the “Go, Dayton Flyers” victory chant.

At the University of Dayton, our student-athletes really are students, and the joy that the basketball team expressed in the moment honored both the togetherness of the team and the connectedness of the team to the larger student body and the Flyer Faithful. These players shared their victory with the students joyfully *because* they are students, too — and that struck me as very special.

One week earlier, as the women’s basketball team won a share of their own A-10 season title in a thrilling overtime game against Saint Louis, thousands of fans didn’t leave their seats as the seniors were honored in a joyful celebratory post-game presentation. The same was true for the men’s team: our fans stayed for a LONG period after the game, taking in the victory and honoring the team.

Clearly the Dayton Flyers are an important connection between the University of Dayton and the community and a source of great pride.

During last night’s victory over a tenacious VCU squad, fans gave a standing ovation when members of the Dayton Flyers 1967 team walked out on the floor. A half century ago, they made a Cinderella run to the NCAA tournament final in a game that will forever be part of Flyer lore.

Fast forward 50 years. Over the past week, fans roared in approval as coaches Archie Miller and Shauna Green climbed the ladder and snipped the net after their hard-fought season finales.

Last weekend, Karen and I invited three teams — volleyball, men’s cross country and women’s soccer — to the president’s residence to celebrate their Atlantic 10 championships in the fall. Volleyball finished the season 30-2 and recorded the highest winning percentage in NCAA Division I. Our men’s cross country, predicted to finish ninth, celebrated its first-ever A-10 championship, as women’s soccer found itself in the conference history books with its 10th Atlantic 10 championship in Coach Mike Tucker’s final season.

It’s been such a great run this year for the Dayton Flyers — on the courts, playing fields and the classrooms. We proudly placed 115 student-athletes on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll in the fall for achieving a 3.5 GPA or higher. More than 200 student-athletes achieved a 3.5 GPA at least one of the past two semesters, and 79 football players made the Pioneer Football League Academic Honor Roll. 

We are so fortunate to have coaches who respect the history of their teams at UD, who honor both parts of the term student-athlete and who are focused on building young adults of character who are well-prepared to handle what they will face *in life* (and not just on the field of play). They have built teams of character and integrity, and their student-athletes reflect well the values of this University.

That’s what being a champion is all about. A University of Dayton champion. Now, go Flyers!

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