Dayton won’t play at home in NIT unless it wins two road games

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

AD Neil Sullivan says UD not willing to give up First Four or state championship games for NIT home games

Despite being the overall No. 1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament, the Dayton Flyers will play on the road in the first round and in the second round if they advance because of the First Four and the boys basketball state championship games being held at UD Arena. They will only play at home if they advance to the quarterfinals next week.

“Big picture, this is an issue we’ve dealt with since the inception of the First Four in 2011,” UD Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said Monday. “We understand the bet we made when we decided to host the First Four and now the state championships. We’ve looked at that over the years and studied a range of alternatives from hosting the NIT on the afternoon of the First Four on Tuesday or Wednesday or even requesting a Thursday game.”

Those aren’t tenable options for the NIT or NCAA, Sullivan said. That’s why Dayton will play Toledo at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Savage Hall in Toledo. The winner will play in Nashville on Saturday or Sunday against Belmont or Vanderbilt.

This will be the fifth time since 2011 Dayton has played in the NIT on the road or at a neutral site. It lost 71-60 to Memphis last season when the whole tournament was played in Texas. It lost 78-73 at Colorado in 2019, 84-75 at Iowa in 2012 and 94-84 at the College of Charleston (S.C.) in 2011.

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Dayton has not won a NIT game since 2010. That’s when it last played at home. It beat Illinois State in the first round at UD Arena, beginning a run that would end with a victory against North Carolina at Madison Square Garden in the NIT championship game.

Sullivan said UD has also looked at playing NIT games at neutral sites over the years — fans, of course, questioned why Dayton couldn’t play at the Nutter Center — but it’s not a realistic option for a variety of reasons.

For one, Dayton doesn’t have enough people on staff to run the First Four and a NIT game at another site on the same day.

“The First Four is a very serious challenge and event, and we’re working 24 hours around the clock to host that,” Sullivan said. “To manage a NIT game at an off-site venue just from a practical staffing standpoint would be too complicated.”

There’s also the issue of timing. Schools need to apply to host NIT games in early March. Making changes at the last moment just wouldn’t work for the NIT or NCAA.

“We don’t ever completely rule it out,” Sullivan said. “It’s something we’ve always studied. This is the reality. We’re not going to stop hosting the First Four for the unknown probability of hosting the NIT. That’s my decision. I own it.”

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