Flyers the toast of town and beyond

Dayton revels in team’s performance as wins mount

Dayton fans have always been passionate about University of Dayton Flyers basketball.

But with the men’s team reaching new national prominence, ranked No. 7 in the most recent Associated Press national poll, Flyers fever is spreading well beyond the Dayton campus.

The moment is especially sweet coming after 2019, a year of distinct challenges for Dayton.

“In a year where Dayton had a lot of struggles — between the tornadoes and the shootings — to have something the community can rally behind I think is really great,” said Bill Tolliver, Winsupply in-house corporate counsel and a 1998 UD graduate and 2001 UD School of Law graduate.

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“Dayton deserves it,” Tolliver added. “Dayton is strong, but Dayton deserves something positive.”

Chris Kershner of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce said the special season is more than basketball. “It’s about the community coming together.”

“Dayton Flyers are Dayton strong. The Dayton region needed this now, more than ever, and our Flyers are delivering,” Kershner said.

Julie Banks, UD’s director of retail operations, said this year’s energy reminds her of 2014, the year the Flyers secured an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, going on to defeat Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford and reaching the Elite Eight.

“We definitely saw very similar sales patterns, where we see that additional business coming right after a win,” Banks said in an interview last week. “And then more anticipation going into a game day.”

National exposure

Being ranked in the top 20 means more national attention. The AP covers the team more consistently and prominently in college game round-ups, UD’s scores are listed in sports show screen crawls and more.

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“Fourteen of Dayton’s 15 wins this season have come by double-figures and the one that didn’t was the season opener against Indiana State,” Jon Rothstein, college basketball analyst for CBS, tweeted Jan. 15. “Flyers have still yet to lose a game in regulation. One Goal: Atlanta.”

All the attention broadcasts UD’s message, said Doug Hauschild, the university’s director of athletic communication.

Dayton fans and hardcore basketball fans have always paid attention. But now, mainstream sports fans are noticing, too.

“It’s all really outside of Dayton that we’re getting that exposure,” Hauschild said. “Which is great.”

“The outside people are recognizing what a basketball community Dayton is,” Tolliver said. “This is really the heart of basketball country.”

The big step isn’t hitting 7th on the AP ranking, Hauschild added. “The big step is from being unranked to ranked.”

Business impact

The Flyer season is having an impact on Dayton businesses as fans buy merchandise and spend money at bars, restaurants and stores near UD Arena.

The Flyers will have 14 sellouts this year at the arena, which seats more than 13,000.

“The arena is packed, Flyer fans are going out before games and Flyer merchandise is being purchased all of over the community. Flyer wins are local business wins,” Kershner said.

Flyer gear and merchandise sales are up, Banks said. This season is the first where UD has had a Flyer gear and apparel store open within UD Arena.

“Now that the (arena) renovation is complete, I would say we’ve definitely seen an increase in sales and interest,” Banks said. “There are a lot of positive comments regarding how well the team is playing. We’ve definitely seen that translate into increased sales.”

Online merchandise sales have seen “an uptick” over the last two or so weeks, Banks said. Orders especially appear to be strong the day after games. UD offers online ordering with in-store pick-up of purchased items.

UD has a trio of retail locations for Flyer gear: Flyer Spirit at University Place, 1200 Brown St.; the book store on the main campus; and “FlyerD Up” in the UD Arena itself.

While Banks couldn’t share exact figures, she said orders from outside the Dayton area seem to be strong. She estimated that some 30 percent of online orders originate from outside Dayton.

She expects strong sales to match strong team performance, especially as the team goes deeper into A-10 tournament play and, possibly, beyond. “There is scarcity with these commemorative items. Everybody wants to know if we’re going to have product at all three locations, and the answer is yes.”

Businesses off campus are enjoying the moment, too.

Larry Hansgen, the radio voice of the Flyers on WHIO, said fans are now showing up 2 hours early to get seats for Coach Anthony Grant’s weekly show at Fricker’s.

“Now that they’re in the top 10, this is rare air for us,” said Jim Manley, marketing director for Fricker’s 21 restaurants.

“We are thrilled to be associated with the University of Dayton Flyers any year, especially this year,” said Manley, who has worked for Fricker’s for 21 years and lived in the Dayton area for 45.

Larry Connor, founder and managing partner of the Connor Group, a Miami Twp.-based real estate investment firm, is a longtime Flyers fan. He said this season is a “great calling card for the community.”

Like all fans, he’s looking forward to more.

“I think everyone associated with the program would say, ‘Hey, this is not about one game or one season. It’s about building a program that’s elite and sustainable,’” Connor said.

Winsupply’s Tolliver travels frequently in his job. He found in recent travels, he was peppered with questions and comments about UD.

“Everywhere I went, people asked about the Flyers,” Tolliver said.

The story of the Flyers is reminiscent of Dayton itself, said Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition.

“We are usually looked at as an underdog, but when you look at the tremendous economic development growth over the past 10 years, we are competing nationally and internationally, and winning projects,” Hoagland said.

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