LOOKING BACK: The day the Dayton Flyers got the call for 1984 NCAA Tournament

University of Dayton basketball legend Roosevelt Chapman led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in the 1984 NCAA Tournament. FILE PHOTO
University of Dayton basketball legend Roosevelt Chapman led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in the 1984 NCAA Tournament. FILE PHOTO

A black, rotary-dial telephone sat squarely in front of University of Dayton athletics director Tom Frericks in a room at UD Arena, and he was a master at using it.

I know, some of you are thinking, “rotary-dial telephone? Let’s go over to the Carillon Historical Park and see if anyone over there has ever heard of it.”

Look it up on the Internet if you must. Otherwise, take my word. Every office and home had one – usually more.

On this night, March 11, 1984, it would ring unexpectedly good news for the Flyers, who the night before defeated Old Dominion on a Sedric Toney foul shot, 64-63, to close Dayton’s regular season at 18-10.

»UD NCAA LEGENDS: Roosevelt Chapman

All that was reported on the nightly newscasts and in the newspapers the next morning and afternoon. Cell phones were around, but not yet in everybody’s pocket. With the internet not consistent or all-encompassing, social media still relied on talking face-to-face, or on a rotary-dial phone.

The Flyers, a lot like now if they don’t win the A-10 Tournament this week, were hoping for a postseason bid, through an NCAA at-large selection or a spot in the NIT.

The power conferences, then as now, swallowed a majority of the selections. Unfortunately, the Flyers, an independent, recorded the same record in 1983 and didn’t receive any calls.

»PHOTOS: Relive Flyers’ amazing 1984 tournament run

Now Frericks and his staff were in a UD Arena office making sure the NIT folks were aware Dayton was available if an NCAA bid did not materialize, while media gathered around.

CBS was preparing for its half-hour 5:30 p.m. Sunday selection show, and I knew the year before Dayton waited until about midnight to hear of its snub. I brought a hefty book with me at 5 p.m. in case I had nothing else to do. My assignment was a story for the morning Journal Herald. Gary Nuhn was assigned to do the piece for the afternoon Dayton Daily News.

It took a lot shorter time than expected to find out what those stories would be.

»INTERACTIVE: Explore Dayton’s NCAA Tournament history

At 5:10 p.m., twenty minutes from CBS’ selection show, Frericks’ rotary-dial rang. I was near enough to hear his conversation with his good friend and Miami athletics director Richard Shrider, who was on the NCAA selection committee in Kansas City.

Shrider – whose team made the field by winning the Mid-American Conference tournament – told Frericks his team would be going, too, and would play LSU in a first-round West Regional game.

Knowing the Journal Herald staff was making its page dummies, I didn’t want to create a major last-second makeover with the news the Flyers would be in the NCAA, so I called the desk.

Frericks overheard my conversation and shouted I would not able to use any of the information.

I let him know the information wasn’t going anywhere until the TV show finished.

I rushed over to coach Don Donoher’s office at WHIO-TV, where he was getting ready for his regular Sunday show, and he figured out through seeding the Flyers were the final team chosen for the field.

Players were scattered around campus, most catching glimpses of their selection, before gathering with the coaches for a pizza party.

Current UD coach Anthony Grant was a member of that team.

“I was just a 17-year-old freshman,” Grant said. “I don’t remember everything that happened that day, but I remember that (the UD selection). We were excited.”

Despite being a surprise pick, the Flyers made the most of it, beating LSU, Oklahoma and Washington before being stopped in the Elite Eight by eventual champion Georgetown.

And Frericks forgave me for “breaking” the news a little early.

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