The 2015-16 college basketball season is here. In honor of the Flyers winning 53 games the last two seasons (and because I couldn’t come up with 2,015 reasons), I have counted down 53 reasons (in no particular order) to look forward to the season.
No. 1: UD fans
Dayton’s fan base has always been its strength. Top 30 in attendance every year. A guaranteed 12,000-plus for every game. It doesn’t matter how good the team is, the fans keep coming. Their patience has been rewarded the last two years.
I asked fans to send me a photo of their favorite piece of UD memorabilia and the story behind it and also to tell us why they root for the Flyers. Here are their stories:
Nate Dicke (Union, Ohio)
This is Madison (above). She was born two weeks earlier. The outfit she has on (she will grow into it) is very special to me because it was the first gift she received after being born. My family has a long history of loving UD basketball, and my wife and I can not wait to take her to her first game this season and sit in the seats that have been in my family since the Arena was built. I am attempting to start the UD obsession at a very early age.
Kevin Flynn (Grove City)
My favorite Flyer memorabilia is this picture from the UD-Pittsburgh game in December 2007. This game came eight days after I proposed to my now wife. We were both on cloud nine and wanted to continue the happy feelings at a Dayton game. She had never been to a UD game (she’s a Kentucky fan) and her first game will be a game neither one of us will ever forget. The atmosphere was electric. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard UD Arena any louder. Along with all the noise all the Flyers were clad in red and waving their white towels. My future wife was hooked as a Flyer faithful.
Watching Brian Roberts rain 3s and Marcus Johnson soar for a second half alley-oop slam I nearly lost my voice. It was a great night with a huge upset win, pizza at Kramer’s and a future wife who now loved the Flyers. The only thing missing was a trip to Tim’s after the game to celebrate the win. I’ve been a UD fan ever since my sister started attending in 1996. I followed her to UD in 1999 and since graduation in 2003 have been a die hard Flyers fan.
Matt Hager (Dublin)
The photo is me and my wife Lindsay in front of the FedEx Center in Memphis. It might be one of my all-time favorite photos. I am a Dayton native and I’ve been a UD fan all of my life, and Lindsay became a big Flyer fan when she started at UD in 2000. We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, but I don’t think either of us ever expected to see the Flyers in the Elite Eight. Because of our jobs, we weren’t able to go to the Sweet 16 win against Stanford, but when UD beat the Cardinal it was a no-brainer that we were heading south for the Florida game. I’ll never forget the fun we had down there. I like to joke with friends that we won the pregame and postgame in Memphis. The middle part, maybe not, but it was still a blast to see my alma mater on the big stage. And I also got a photo of the scoreboard when UD took its first (and only, I believe) lead against the Gators.
Tom Hirt (Beavercreek)
Probably my favorite piece of Dayton Flyers memorabilia is this sign which was hanging in the Spokane Arena for the Flyers’ 2003 NCAA appearance (let’s not talk about the game, especially the phantom goaltending call against Sean Finn as UD was about to complete the epic comeback). Technically, the sign resides at my sister’s house under the protection of my brother in law, but since they live 5 minutes away and I’m over there all the time, I thought it would count for the purposes of this contest. How we got to Spokane is arguably a better story than how we got the sign and brought it home, but here goes.
So in 2003, UD got the 4 seed but had to play out in Spokane. My brother in law and I boarded a flight to Chicago, connecting to Seattle, at maybe 6 pm Wednesday evening (game was late Thursday, we were meeting a buddy in Seattle, planning to stay the night in Seattle and drive to Spokane the next morning. We were waiting in line on the Tarmac to take off, and they announced the flight was canceled and we would have to return, due to weather in Chicago. So sad. So we got back to the gate, tried to scramble to find another flight out but no dice. We got booked on a 5:50 am flight the next day out of Dayton, went back home, came back early and were waiting to board when we found out THAT flight was canceled too! There were a bunch of Flyer fans hoping to make the flight, including Keith Waleskowski’s parents and Ted Kissel’s daughter, all of us scrambling to get West. We waited and waited and eventually got booked onto a flight from Cincinnati directly to Seattle. We flew down I-75, sprinted through the airport, and just made it in time to board. We got to Seattle. Our buddy was waiting at be airport. And we drove across the state to Spokane, got there in time to see the end of the Weber State- Wisconsin game and catch our Flyers next.
We were stuck in Spokane for a couple more days and attended the games on Sunday at the Spokane Arena. Wisconsin came back to beat Tulsa, and UConn beat Stanford. As the UConn-Stanford game was ending, Arizona was playing a tight game against the local Gonzaga Bulldogs. So most of the fans in the Arena were watching that game on the TV screens. Arizona ended up pulling out a 96-95 win, and I think it might have been an overtime or two. Anyway, the games at Spokane were over, everyone is watching the screens, so we cut the twisty ties holding the Dayton sign (which was hanging between the first and second levels of the Arena), and carried it out to the car. It’s fairly big, but nobody said anything and we figured it would probably end up thrown away anyway. We brought it to the airport and the flight attendants were kind enough to keep it up front for us on our flight home so it didn’t get crushed en route. So since then, it’s been proudly displayed in my sister’s home in their Flyers’ basement shrine.
I’ve been a fan since I can remember. Both of my parents went to UD and I like to joke that the first time I heard my mom curse was while watching the UD-Georgetown Elite Eight game in 1984. My grandfather played basketball, football, and baseball for UD and is even in the Athletics hall of fame. I went to UD from 93-97 and was in the marching band & pep band — actually met my wife at UD in the band. Got season tickets soon after graduating. So being a Flyer fan is literally in my blood.
Rob Murray (Fishers, Ind.)
My family and I have been part of the Flyer Faithful ever since we stepped foot on campus back in 1994. That was my freshman year on campus, and it was the year I met my wife, who was also a freshman that year. Three years later my sister-in-law started her first year at UD along with her now husband.
We are truly a Dayton athletics family. My wife Laura played golf all four years, my sister-in-law Kelly was a starting pitcher for the softball team, my brother-in-law Brad VanVleet was a captain on the football team, and I even worked for Doug Hauschild for two years in the SID office.
While our distance has grown between us and campus, we still make it to a number of games each year. One of our favorite moments was going to the Elite Eight game in Memphis. Laura and I loaded up our kids and drove all morning to get there in time to get our tickets, head to the pep rally, and go to the game. Even with the outcome we had the best time seeing old friends, being surrounded by UD alums, and watching our Flyers.
Ryan McFarland (Cincinnati)
First off, the storied tradition of a college program in a small town like Dayton brings out so many stories that so many people cherish and are truly special. The stories I hear at every game remind me how much I love this team and town and why I became a student manager for the team from 2011-2014. You could probably put all the stories together into a book there are that many out there, but here is mine.
My grandparents are lifers when it comes to Flyer basketball. They’ve had season tickets since the Fieldhouse and recount stories of all the Dayton greats like the Uhl, Monk, Smith, Chapman, May, Davis and countless others. These were the stories I heard growing up and got me hooked to UD basketball. My grandfather in particular loved his basketball and loved his Flyers. He was at every game, rain or shine, through blizzards and everything else weather could throw at him. He was there in his seat in the front row an hour before tip-off. The thing that I remember the most is how positive and supportive he always was towards the players. I grew up in the 90’s, which was the low point in Flyer basketball but he was always cheerful and excited to go to games even during the 4-25 year. This is part of the reason I’m the eternal optimist for every UD season no matter what the roster looks like.
A little over two years ago, my grandfather passed away peacefully and naturally the stories told at his funeral involved UD basketball in someway. About a month later, we were cleaning out his closet and came across some old Dayton gear that I started to look through and found this sweatshirt (above). In today’s standards the sweatshirt is old fashioned and definitely has the Zubaz type flair to it, but I knew I this was something I was keeping. Fast forward to the next basketball season. I watched the team that I used to watch with my grandfather go to the Elite Eight for the first time in my lifetime. It was fitting because when they started conference at 1-5, the only person that would have been positive would have been him. He would have been the only person that thought they could of made it that far. He never wrote his teams off until they lost their last game. The best part of the story though was that I wore this sweatshirt the night that Dayton beat Syracuse to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. I’m counting down the days until I break it out again on November 13th.
Jonathan Diemer (Dayton)
These pictures represent one of the best weekends of my college career. For my birthday in 2014, my mother framed my tickets from UD’s first two games in the 2014 NCAA tournament in Buffalo. My friends and I were lucky enough to win the student ticket lottery so we immediately jumped on the chance to see our Flyers play in the tourney. The games were a blast, and we had no idea that we would be so fortunate to see two huge upsets. March Madness is always great, but getting the opportunity to see UD have success was truly unforgettable. In addition to the tickets, my mom surprised me by including a copy of the Flyer News headline in the frame following the Syracuse win. She also included the headline from the Dayton Daily News following the victory over Ohio State. This piece of memorabilia truly encompasses what a great weekend that was and how amazing it is to be a Dayton Flyer fan. I have been cheering for the Flyers since my senior year of high school when I decided to attend UD (my aunts and uncles that went to Xavier were not as excited as I was). The Flyers have been a pleasure to watch the past few years, and I look forward to rooting them on for many years to come.
Kathleen Weisenbach (Kettering)
This is my favorite picture because it reminds me daily of her great love (and mine) of our wonderful Dayton Flyers! My Mom, Rita, started following the Flyers as a little girl when they first played at the Fairgrounds Coliseum then on to the Fieldhouse (now the Frerick’s Center) and finally to the UD Arena. For 10 years, she was the first caller on every Flyer Feedback Show hosted by Mark Adams. It will be eight years on Nov. 23 when she passed away at the age of 92 (almost 93). For me, being a Dayton Flyer fan is in my blood! I am a Flyer fanatic (have been for over 40 years and counting)!
Christian O’Malley (Midgeville, Ga.)
My dad and I lived in Dayton until 2001, and since we have lived in Atlanta, Ga. Although I was only 4 when we moved, I became a die hard UD fan and now we use twitter and the internet as our connection to the team. After years of attending the father-son camps and getting to know players and coaches, my dad and I have bonded over this amazing team.
In late 2010, my dad got me plane tickets, game tickets, and much more Dayton memorabilia for Christmas, and to this day, it is still the greatest gift I have ever received. The next week we traveled up to Dayton to watch my first UD game since I was 4. It was the double-overtime, Dayton vs. New Mexico game in which Juwan Staten dunked over their 7-footer. In a picture captured of the dunk, me and my dad found ourselves in the crowd and so its a great memory piece to have. This picture and frame hang in my room in tribute to my greatest UD memory of all time. The tournament run still brings tears to my eyes every time I watch videos or read about it. Honestly, Dayton basketball has saved my life, and it’s really important to me, its a part of who I am.”
Tony Oswald (Wheatfield, N.Y.).
This photo is from March 1978 Flyers vs. Notre Dame game at the Arena and of the student section storming the court after the win. As a student at the time, my housemate and I rarely missed a home game. Digger Phelps was the ND coach at the time and was bombarded with toilet paper rolls when introduced. He was not a happy camper and went right over Don Donoher and got in his face about it.
Of course this whipped the crowd into a total frenzy. Chants of “Sit down Digger! Sit down Digger!” were repeated several times during the game every time he stood up to question a referee’s call. What a game! If you look closely at the picture, you can see a toilet paper roll flying through the air. Great memories of watching Jim Paxson in those years.