Dayton prepares for reopening day after Week 1 cancellation

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Dayton football interviews: Sept. 8, 2021

Flyers will play Eastern Illinois on Saturday at Welcome Stadium

Dayton Flyers football coach Rick Chamberlin was sitting at his desk at the Frericks Center at 8:45 a.m. Friday when Athletic Director Neil Sullivan walked into his office.

“He was on the phone,” Chamberlin said, “and I’m looking at him, and I know this isn’t good. He walks in and he’s going, ‘Yep, yep, all right, I want to talk to my coach right now and let him know.’ And I knew. He explained to me then about the COVID issues at Robert Morris. Then the Robert Morris coach (Bernard Clark Jr.) called, and he said, ‘Coach, we were at the buses,’ and the administration told us the numbers were too high and we couldn’t go.”

That’s how the game between Robert Morris and Dayton at Welcome Stadium was cancelled. As of Wednesday afternoon, Robert Morris was scheduled to return to action Saturday at Central Michigan, while Dayton will open the season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Eastern Illinois at Welcome Stadium. Eastern Illinois has already played two games, losing 26-21 to Indiana State and 46-0 to South Carolina.

By the time Dayton plays, 658 days will have passed since its last game. The players received the news of the cancellation in an emergency Zoom meeting Friday.

“It was not a good feeling,” safety Brandon Easterling said. “It was an emotional day, but we’ve moved on and we’re ready to go now.”

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Dayton’s captains — Easterling, running back Jake Chisholm, quarterback Jack Cook and Joe Bubonics — had their own meeting with Chamberlin on Friday after the cancellation.

“Jack said something that really stuck with me,” Easterling said. “He said after a game, whether you win or lose, we kind of have a 24-hour rule where you soak it in and you can either celebrate or mourn whatever happened in the game. This is one of those 24-hour rules. We got the news, but then the next day we had an intrasquad scrimmage. I think now guys are starting to realize more than ever you’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity because it can taken away whenever.”

At the scrimmage Saturday, the younger players participated while the veterans helped coach.

Dayton hopes the cancellation is the exception rather than the norm this season. Only three games at the Football Championship Subdivision level were cancelled last week, and there were no cancellations at the highest level, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Dayton made the most of its unexpected Saturday off by not only scrimmaging and doing some conditioning work but watching other college football games on TV.

“It was a lot of fun to finally see some crowds in the stands,” Chisholm said. “I watched some Big 10 games. I had a few of my friends that play that I watched. It was a fun Saturday to see see those games on TV.”

Chamberlin enjoyed seeing fans back in the stands across the country.

“It’s such a joy to watch on TV and see the craziness that goes on before the games and during the games with the crowds,” he said. “There’s nothing like college football. There just isn’t. The energy that it provides. ... that’s what I anticipate happening now. Our fans, they had to be put off for one more week, so it’s pent up for them now and they can let it go on Saturday.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Eastern Illinois at Dayton, 1 p.m., 1290, 95.7