The road begins in Dayton
With heavier than normal traffic on Interstate 75 and orange cones adorning Edwin C. Moses Boulevard, the signs are everywhere that it’s that time for basketball fans of all ages near and far to descend upon the center of college basketball — UD Arena: home of the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship First Four.
Since the tournament expanded its field in 2001, UD Arena has hosted every opening round, with the exception of 2021 when games were played under pandemic protocols.
For basketball fans who have ties to Dayton, they are by now familiar with the economic impact of the First Four — reported by the Dayton Daily News at $5.2 million this year — as well as the recognition and publicity it gives to the University of Dayton.
And then there’s the personal impact of the First Four on fans and players.
Daytonian John Kerns said he has been attending basketball games at UD ever since he was 5 years old — “all the way back to when the Flyers played in the Fieldhouse,” Kerns said.
Kerns said he has been regularly attending First Four practices and games for the past few years. For Dayton to be the host of the First Four, Kerns said, is a no-brainer.
“Dayton just has an awesome basketball fan base.”
“Dayton just has an awesome basketball fan base,” he said. “No matter what someone’s age is, it’s always fun to come here and watch a good game — even if the Flyers aren’t in it.”
Another Flyer basketball fan, Sean Fitzgerald, said he traveled from Missouri to watch the games. He said the First Four being in Dayton helps bring together his family.
“My sister lives in Kettering,” he said. “So coming back up here to visit and watch the games has been very nice.
“Basketball just has a way of bringing people together.”
This sentiment was also true for Sean Moore, forward for the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights and a native of Columbus, Ohio. During a press conference he expressed how happy he was that his family would be in attendance for Wednesday’s game.
“I was happy that my family could come because I play away from home,” Moore said. “I’m happy that my family could come and see me play in person.”
As the games finish up Wednesday evening, there’s sure to be sportsmanship, camaraderie and a love of basketball shared by all.