A member of the College GameDay production team told Robbie Poteat, a senior associate athletics director, ESPN made its best decision of the year by bringing the show to the University of Dayton on Saturday.
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The thousands of fans who filled the Frericks Center would agree. They screamed and clapped for hours in the old UD Fieldhouse where the basketball team played for years until the opening of UD Arena in 1969. While the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament took over the arena for the weekend, the smaller Frericks Center provided an intimate setting for one of UD’s most public moments.
From 4:30 a.m., when the first non-student fans — Matty Toomb and John Kendall, of Cincinnati — arrived on campus to get in line to noon, when the show finished filming, Dayton basketball, Dayton athletics in general and the entire city enjoyed a moment in the national spotlight.
“I’ve been going to Dayton games since I was a kid,” said UD senior Rachel Overholzer, of Cincinnati, “and it just means so much seeing us go this far.”
“Especially with us being seniors,” said UD senior Sarah Lemley, of Anchorage, Alaska, “it’s been a pleasure and so exciting to see us doing so well.”
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Overholzer and Lemley were among the students at the front of the line outside the Frericks Center. They arrived around 6 a.m. Some students tried to get a spot earlier by camping outside but were told to pack up their tents and wait.
Students threw a party of sorts as they waited in line, showing off a variety of signs to the photographers and videographers capturing the scene.
Among the signs were ones that read:
“Sorry, GW, Obi’s our president.
“Mikesell, will you marry me?”
“Jordy’s the man.”
“Archie lost the breakup.”
“The Astros stole my other sign.”
“I love this team more than I love myself.”
Students entered the Frericks Center at 9:30 a.m. The show started 90 minutes later. GameDay host Rece Davis didn’t need to do much to fire up the fans but got them going nonetheless in the minutes before the live show began.
“I am freaking stoked for this show,” Davis shouted.
Among the many fans in the crowd was UD’s winningest coach, Don Donoher, and his former player, the current coach Anthony Grant. The history of Dayton basketball earned a special mention from ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.
“The love for the program has been handed down from generation to generation,” Bilas said.
It’s #LOWD. pic.twitter.com/QwAYXx4OB7— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) March 7, 2020
Early in the show, the Dayton players entered the set through a curtain, receiving a standing ovation. Then Bilas interviewed Dayton star Obi Toppin. They walked around the court together as the cameras followed.
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“When was the first time you ever dunked in a basketball game?” Bilas asked.
“My first game of my senior year in high school,” Toppin said.
“Who’s your favorite Instagram follow?”
“Ja Morant just followed me two days ago.”
“What does mom make that you like the best?”
“Definitely empanadas. She makes the best empanadas.”
“What’s your biggest fear?”
“Being stuck in the middle of the ocean.”
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Bilas told Toppin he doesn’t have to worry about that if he’s in Dayton, but Toppin and the rest of the Flyers long ago left their small pond in the A-10 and have emerged as a serious national championship contender.
Dayton’s NCAA tournament chances were one of the questions the GameDay crew pondered during the show.
“I don’t think the tournament is wide open,” Bilas said. “Not everyone can win. Everybody can lose. But not everybody can win. But Dayton is one of the nine teams that can win this thing.”
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