Dayton plans to be ‘full go’ with attendance at UD Arena in 2021-22 season

Red and Blue scrimmage expected to return in October

The coronavirus pandemic robbed the Dayton Flyers of the typical UD Arena experience in the 2020-21 season. Instead of playing in front of crowds of more than 13,000 fans, there were fewer than 200 fans at home games.

The good news is that it is likely to be a one-year blip in a long history of strong attendance at UD Arena. Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said Tuesday the plan is to have no attendance restrictions next season.

“Our intention come November, minus any very significant change in COVID, is to be full go,” Sullivan said. “We’ll obviously follow whatever guidelines there are at the time, but as I sit here today, we look to be full capacity.”

Sullivan spoke to local media at UD Arena on the subject of the name, image and likeness issue one day after Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order allowing college athletes to profit off their individual brands starting Thursday.

Sullivan’s comments about next season followed that discussion. He said season-ticket renewal forms have already been mailed, and it has been business as usual.

“There couldn’t be more than a handful of cancellations so far,” Sullivan said. “Our fans really stuck with us last year. In our communication to them, we certainly shared that we can’t predict what COVID will look like come November. I think anyone that looks back at the past 15 months, we couldn’t predict half of what happened. We’re certainly transparent about that. I can only share what our intention is and our aspiration is, which is to be full go with as little change as possible.”

Dayton will stick with mobile ticketing, which it introduced before the 2020-21 season. Sullivan believes that’s a permanent change, one that has become common across the country.

The non-conference schedule is still in the works. Sullivan said he’s looking to start a series against a NCAA tournament-caliber opponent at home because Dayton has two road games scheduled against such opponents: Mississippi (Dec. 18) and Southern Methodist (date to be announced). Once they find an opponent, they can start filling other dates on the schedule. He wants to keep dates open at this point to give him more flexibility in finding the NCAA tournament-caliber opponent.

Dayton will open the season on Nov. 9 against Illinois-Chicago at UD Arena. Sullivan looks forward to the experience of seeing a packed UD Arena again. None of the 13 scholarship players — seven of whom are newcomers — have played a regular-season game at a full UD Arena.

“Our players miss that,” Sullivan said. “It sounds cliche when people say fans are part of the program, but for us, that’s a truth. It’s not the same building without them. It has a completely different feel. I value it most for our players, who want to work hard and perform for people. Our fan base is an accelerator, and this building wasn’t built to be empty.”

Dayton plans to have the Red and Blue Game for the men’s and women’s teams in mid-October. The intrasquad scrimmage didn’t take place in 2017, 2018 and 2019 because of arena renovations and didn’t take place last season because of the pandemic.

“We’ll do that and get some fans in here,” Sullivan said. “The fans have still got to meet our players. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of new people. We’ve got a lot of young, really talented players with good personalities.”

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