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Flyer fans a loyal bunch

Chelsie Maloney wasn’t going to let a little thing like childbirth keep her from rooting on her University of Dayton Flyers.

In the delivery room at Kettering Medical Center during the first half of Saturday night’s UD-Syracuse men’s basketball game, Maloney asked her husband Adam to move to the other side of her bed so he had a better view of the television and could provide her with score updates. She gave birth at halftime — conveniently — and watched the second half of the game while snuggling with her newborn daughter.

Yep, University of Dayton basketball fans are a loyal bunch.

Here in Dayton, the Flyer Faithful drive through blinding snowstorms to pack the arena, whether it’s a rivalry game or an unknown foe. On the road, UD alumni and Dayton ex-pats routinely infiltrate their opposing team’s arenas and make so much noise it can sound like a UD home game. And they’ll go to great lengths to show their Flyer pride.

For Chelsie and Adam Maloney, celebrating a birth as the Flyers were earning a berth in the Sweet 16 seemed appropriate, since, as Adam said, “Everything else that has happened in our relationship has been associated with UD basketball.”

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He’s not exaggerating. Their first conversation occurred at a UD-Xavier game in 2010. Their first date came a week later: it was the UD-Charlotte game. Their wedding reception was on UD Arena’s Flight Deck lounge overlooking the basketball court. Not bad for a “mixed marriage” — Adam, a Springfield native, attended Xavier while Beavercreek native Chelsie went to UD.

This Thursday night, when the Flyers face off against Stanford in UD’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament’s “Sweet 16” since 1984, Maloney said she will again watch the game with her daughter —“only this time, she’ll get to see BOTH halves,” Maloney said.

While this will be the first full game for the Maloneys’ infant daughter, Thursday night’s game will be the —well, we’re not sure we can count that high for the number of UD games 82-year-old Jack Boesch has watched and/or attended.

Boesch was a freshman in 1950 when he attended the first-ever game in the new UD Fieldhouse. He’s been attending UD home games ever since, except for an interruption from 1954-56 when he served in the military. He graduated in 1954, 40 years after his father graduated from St. Mary’s, the institution that taught high school students and which later morphed into UD.

Boesch, whose career was in real estate, helped arrange a land swap that led to the construction of UD Arena.

For now, Boesch plans to watch Thursday night’s game on TV. “I was thinking about driving down to Memphis, but I think I’m going to stay here,” Boesch said. But he’s not certain. A younger cousin is encouraging him to make the trip. “I still might,” he said.

Bob Wilker of St. Marys — the town in Auglaize County, not the UD predecessor — has already made up his mind: he’s headed to Memphis, along with his son Ryan, a sophomore at UD.

The father and son had talked about buying tickets for the first two rounds in Buffalo, but Wilker had commitments at home with Ryan’s two younger brothers, both of whom play sports.

“It wasn’t two minutes after the Syracuse game ended when Ryan called and said, ‘Are we going?’ I told him to order the tickets,” Wilker said.

When he was 26 in 1984, Wilker attended the Sweet 16 game in Los Angeles that UD won before bowing out in the “Elite 8.”

“I always said that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but I guess they go every 30 years,” Wilker said. “I guess that means I’ll be 86 when they go again.”

His son Ryan said he’s looking forward to a little father-son bonding time, even if it means missing a few classes.

“I think the professors here will be understanding,” the UD student said. “If I don’t go, I would regret it.”

Bill Whiting — a 1990 UD graduate who appeared shirtless and in body paint (he had a large red “Y” on his chest) on the front page of the Dayton Daily News in 1990, when the Flyers won a first-round NCAA tournament game — lives in New York City now, and loves to attend games at nearby Fordham when UD comes to town.

“One year, I really do think we had more fans in that gym than Fordham had,” Whiting said.

Whiting, director of wine education for Banfi Vintners, said he is filled with Flyer pride — which he has shared, quite generously, through multiple Facebook posts. He’s headed to Memphis and will attend the game with three fraternity brothers who went to Austin in 1990.

“Even if we don’t win the national championship, UD will still be the talk of the nation for four or five days, and you can’t beat that kind of attention,” he said.

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