Game #9-051: Dayton vs. Colorado BuffaloesNovember 15, 2012 12:30 pm
The first game of the Charleston Classic at 12:30 P.M. is a bit of a challenge to get to. It's in the middle of the work and school day in downtown Charleston next to the College of Charleston campus, so getting into TD Arena can be difficult. I tried to minimize my stops getting to the arena because of this, so I waited until I parked to visit an ATM for cash for the tournament. One parking lot a block from the arena I decided to not try at all because there are usually buses unloading next to the arena that block the narrow road. One parking garage I often go to in Charleston two blocks from the arena was full. As a result, I had to park on the roof of a garage four blocks from TD Arena on the corner of St. Phillip and Wentworth Street. But with this hassle, I can usually look forward to seeing a pretty good college basketball game with few people at the early game. But as I walked around downtown Charleston, I saw lots of Dayton fans. And pretty soon I noticed that everybody within three blocks of TD Arena was wearing a Dayton Flyers jacket. And when I walked in 30 minutes before game time, the lower deck sideline seating was already half full, mostly with Dayton fans.
I had known from last year that Ohio State
has a large fan base of traveling and relocated fans in South Carolina and nationally. Kentucky has the same as well. And last year I praised Dayton in my Ohio State recap for showing great support at home games for mid-major basketball. But I had no idea that Dayton fans also showed up in large numbers hundreds of miles from Ohio. Here is a photo of Dayton fans as their team took the court a few minutes before tip-off. What mid-major can bring over 1,000 fans to an afternoon game on a Thursday over 500 miles away a week before Thanksgiving?
That mid-major happens to be Dayton. You see these traveling fan bases in college basketball, and as they become synonymous with the big programs above the Red Line, you begin to dislike them. Yet Dayton is below the Red Line and does not have a storied basketball program, at least not within the realms of how most Americans view the top college programs. The Flyers made the national championship in 1967, only to lose to John Wooden's dynasty at UCLA. That was Dayton's only Final Four appearance, and the Flyers have never reached the Sweet 16 in my lifetime. Dayton has also made the NCAA Tournament only four times in the last 20 years. Yet Dayton would bring far more fans than their opponent in today's game, Colorado of the PAC-12. Even the East Coast major conference teams playing later on in the Charleston Classic would not bring as many fans as Dayton.
Dayton is in the Atlantic 10, which produces many of the replies to Kyle on Twitter of "That's not an upset!" whenever the A-10 (or A-14 and now A-16) pulls off a Red Line Upset. But the Atlantic 10 is only competitive in basketball, and is still not as competitive as the conferences above the Red Line. So why can Dayton bring so many fans? Perhaps it is because many Ohioans now live in South Carolina and the Lowcountry, which has irked many native southerners
. For that matter I could be considered one of them, since I was born in Cincinnati and moved to South Carolina when I was two years old. It seems that Midwest college sports teams might be similar to the professional teams in the Northeast, with national followings of loyal fans with ties to the region. Or maybe Daytonians love sports at levels below what is covered nationally more than anybody else in the country. UD Arena is always full for the now Quad P.I.G., an event that occurs before most of the country notices that the NCAA Tournament has started. The professional sports team with the games sold out consecutively is not a NBA team or the Boston Red Sox. Nor is it a NFL team, although the Green Bay Packers have sold out more consecutive seasons than anybody else. The answer instead is a Class A Minor League Baseball team in Dayton. In Southwest Ohio, you are far more likely to be able to get a ticket to see the Cincinnati Reds than to see their Class A affiliate up the road in Dayton.