Dayton AD on changing times in NCAA: ‘Most challenging period in college sports history’

Neil Sullivan talks about the importance of UD adapting to new era

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The Flyer Faithful had their day in March. The Dayton Flyers beat Nevada for their first NCAA tournament victory in nine years before losing to Arizona in the second round.

That bit of March success has not led to an easy or quiet offseason — there’s no such thing in the name, image and likeness and transfer portal era.

Three players who were part of Dayton’s eight-man rotation — Kobe Elvis, Koby Brea and Petras Padegimas — have left the program in recent weeks. Dayton coaches have added one player, former Ohio State Buckeyes forward Zed Key, from the portal and are working on adding more talent to the roster.

It’s a turbulent time for college basketball teams across the country. Dayton has plenty of company in the Atlantic 10 Conference when it comes to losing players to the portal. Matt Cross and Josh Cohen, the top-two scorers on the Massachusetts roster, are looking for new homes. Four players from Virginia Commonwealth entered the portal. La Salle saw its entire starting lineup depart.

Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan has talked often in recent years about how UD has adjusted to the new era and did so again Monday in an interview with the Dayton Daily News.

“I think it’s no secret that the environment is changing,” Sullivan said, “and I think we’ve adapted well. We’ll continue to adapt, but we certainly recognize that we’re probably in the most challenging period in college sports history, and I don’t really think there’s even a close second, to be candid with you. We know what our North Star is. We know what what we’re about.

“Our tactics continue to change. Roster building is different. We know that four-year players are rare. But at the end of the day, our DNA won’t change. We’re not a transactional program. We’re not really a transactional community. We know that we’ve adapted. I think the coaches have done a great job doing that. I think this past year is evidence of that. At the end of the day, we still stick to what doesn’t change, right? That’s our culture and our values. We place a premium on people and relationships. We’re going to continue to do that, but there’s no doubt that it requires extreme adaptation. So far I feel that we’ve tackled that well.”

Brea’s decision to enter the portal surprised many fans. He’ll play his fifth and final season at a new school after four seasons with the Flyers.

Asked if Brea’s departure surprised him and the UD coaches and if there was an attempt to get him to stay, Sullivan said, “I do my best to refrain commenting about individual players. I try to let coach (Anthony) Grant and the players speak for themselves. I will say that the transfer portal is kind of a two-way street. The portal has been good to Dayton, and for the first time, recently, the portal and the environment hit Dayton. Nobody is immune to it. It’s gone from a two-way street, essentially, to a multi-dimensional street with no direction, no speed limits, no traffic lanes. I’m not going to speak for others’ motivations, but I am confident in what Dayton has to offer — and that includes NIL. I believe we have the best holistic basketball experience in the country. That includes NIL. I’m confident in our ability to compete. If a player chooses otherwise, they’ll have to speak for that for themselves. But I’m confident that we’re prepared to field a competitive team.”

Follow this week for more from the interview with Sullivan.

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