One of Flyers’ biggest fans endows head men’s basketball coach position

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VIDEO: Dr. Stephen Levitt endows Dayton Flyers men's basketball coaching position on June 22, 2022

Anthony Grant will be first recipient of donation by Dr. Stephen Levitt

Dr. Stephen Levitt has missed two home games at UD Arena in the last 45 years: one the day after his mom died and the other because he had to renew his medical license. He owns 50 season tickets and never has trouble giving them away to friends. He comes to games hours early, greeting coaches and players as they walk to the court.

Levitt ranks among the biggest fans of the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball program — and also the most generous. For years, he hosted a summer party for the program at his house in Kettering. In 2014, UD unveiled the Dr. Stephen B. Levitt Wall of Recognition on the south concourse of UD Arena, honoring benefactors who have given $100,000 or more to UD.

Levitt’s latest donation is his biggest yet, though the exact amount will remain confidential. The University of Dayton announced Levitt has created a multi-million dollar endowment to fund the men’s basketball head coaching position. The news was revealed Wednesday in an event, with more than 400 people in attendance, that also celebrated Levitt’s 80th birthday at The Steam Plant in Dayton.

According to a UD press release, “The Dr. Stephen B. Levitt Head Men’s Basketball Coaching Chair is the largest donor-funded endowment involving a chaired position in UD history, and the first head coaching chair endowment for the Flyers.”

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Levitt got the idea to fund this endowment after a lunch with Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan.

“I mentioned to him that I would like to do something to leave a legacy to this program, which is very near and dear to my heart,” Levitt said. “I’ve been an avid fan all my life. And for the past 45 years. I’ve been very close with many of the players and all of the coaches and staff. I said I’d like to do something besides having the wall of recognition that’s in the arena that is associated with my name.”

Anthony Grant, who’s entering his sixth season as Dayton head coach, will be the first recipient of Levitt’s gift.

“I knew Anthony as a player and now as a head coach,” Levitt said, “so I have a very good relationship with him. I felt it was a great thing happening that he would be receiving it.”

“We are extremely grateful for Dr. Levitt’s generosity and commitment to the future of Dayton basketball,” Grant said in a press release. “Having known Doc since my days as UD undergraduate, I’m honored to be the inaugural head coach for his endowment. His impact on our program will be felt for generations to come.”

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Watching the last practice of the summer season on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at the Cronin Center are: front row, left to right: Norm Grevey, Dr. Stephen Levitt, Bucky Bockhorn and Ryan Mikesell. Back row, left to right: Joey Gruden, James Haring, Casey Cathrall and Mike Mulcahey. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Watching the last practice of the summer season on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at the Cronin Center are: front row, left to right: Norm Grevey, Dr. Stephen Levitt, Bucky Bockhorn and Ryan Mikesell. Back row, left to right: Joey Gruden, James Haring, Casey Cathrall and Mike Mulcahey. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

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Watching the last practice of the summer season on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at the Cronin Center are: front row, left to right: Norm Grevey, Dr. Stephen Levitt, Bucky Bockhorn and Ryan Mikesell. Back row, left to right: Joey Gruden, James Haring, Casey Cathrall and Mike Mulcahey. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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Dayton basketball season tipoff event at Dr. Stephen Levitt’s house in Kettering on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton basketball season tipoff event at Dr. Stephen Levitt’s house in Kettering on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton basketball season tipoff event at Dr. Stephen Levitt’s house in Kettering on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. David Jablonski/Staff

Grant made $1,765,395 in the fiscal year ending in 2020, according to the most recent UD tax return available on ProPublica.org. He made $1,595,904 the previous year.

Levitt grew up on the north side of Dayton and attended Fairview Elementary and Fairview High School and then Ohio State University. He said his family couldn’t afford season tickets. Now he’s one of the many fans, including the 13,000-plus that fill UD Arena every season, keeping the program among the most well-supported in the nation.

“He’s a wonderful supporter,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of them in this town and across the country. Steve himself would say this: we never try to make it about any one person. This is a team sport on the court, and it’s certainly a team sport off the court.”

Coaching endowments have become more common over the years. At Notre Dame, for example, Marcus Freeman is the Dick Corbett Head Football Coach. Corbett made two gifts totaling $35 million to the university in 2015. Jim Harbaugh’s title at Michigan is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach.

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Levitt’s gift will not fund the entire salary of Grant or the head coaches who follow him, Sullivan said.

“The university has an endowment,” Sullivan said. “The board sets an endowment spending policy. So the corpus or the principle of the gift was placed in the university’s endowment that’s invested with various asset classes. Then the spin-off will help offset the salary for the men’s basketball coaching position.”

Sullivan hopes the publicity surrounding Levitt’s endowment spurs others to do the same with other coaching positions at the university.

Levitt’s decision to fund the endowment comes less than five months before the start of one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. Dayton returns its entire starting lineup and seven of its eight top scorers from a team that finished 24-11 last season and stood on the brink of earning an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament before losing to Richmond in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament semifinals.

“I’m very excited,” Levitt said. “I think we have a lot of potential, and I’m sure coach Grant will be able to develop that. If I’m reading all the polls right, we’re in the top 25 or 30 in almost every poll, and I’m sure we will live up to that hype and expectation.”

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Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre hugs Dr. Stephen Levitt before a game against Miami on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, at UD Arena in Dayton. DAVID JABLONSKI | STAFF

Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre hugs Dr. Stephen Levitt before a game against Miami on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, at UD Arena in Dayton. DAVID JABLONSKI | STAFF

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Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre hugs Dr. Stephen Levitt before a game against Miami on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, at UD Arena in Dayton. DAVID JABLONSKI | STAFF

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