UD grad takes Dayton basketball podcast to new heights

Dan Sullivan renamed show ‘Talking out Lowd’ in September

The Dayton Flyers men’s basketball media guide lists all the top scorers in program history. It’s easy to look at that list and get a sense of who the best players in UD history are.

It’s much tougher to determine the best Flyer fans of all time. There’s John Raponi, perhaps the Roosevelt Chapman of the lower level at UD Arena because few fans have seen as many games as him or worn more red items of clothing. Dr. Stephen Levitt belongs high on the list. Many former Flyers who have become fans and season-ticket holders after their playing days — Don and Ken May, J.D. Grigsby and Keith Waleskowski, for example — would have to be considered.

There’s plenty of competition in the 30-and-under crowd, too. Older fans have passed their love of the Flyers onto the next generation for decades. It’s why UD continues to rank in the top 25 in the nation in attendance year after year.

That’s how Dan Sullivan, 30, became a Flyer fan. His dad Jim graduated from the University of Dayton in 1977. His mom Deb was pregnant with him when she and Jim traveled to a game at a game at UD Arena in January of 1990. Sullivan grew up in Pittsburgh but made the drive with his parents to Dayton many times for games and then followed in his dad’s footsteps, graduating from UD in 2012.

Now any mention of the top UD basketball fans would have to include Sullivan, who has made his living in sales in Chicago but in his spare time hosts a podcast devoted to the Flyers. A show that started on BlackburnReview.com took off last season as the Flyers rose in the national rankings.

Sullivan renamed the show the Talking Out Lowd podcast in September. Lowd is not a typo. Younger Dayton fans adopted the alternative spelling as an inside joke of sorts several years ago.

Sullivan is the perfect guy to talk to fans every week because he understands what it means to be a Dayton fan. He used to paint his face red and blue and sit in the front row of the Red Scare student section. He experienced the ups and downs of the program in his four years of campus, seeing the team make the NCAA tournament as a freshman in 2009 and then settle for NIT bids in his last three years.

“Being a Dayton fan is like having comfortability with always being a step away from greatness,” Sullivan said. “In the ’60s, we were a step away from winning a national title, and we didn’t do it. In the ’70s, they were a step away from being a tournament contender every year, and they couldn’t do it. In the ’80s, they were a step away. They went to the Elite Eight and couldn’t keep their relevance. That’s what it is. It’s a comfortability with being one step away from where we should be.”

Great season, big disappointment

Last season proved Sullivan’s thinking correct in a way. Dayton finished 29-2, posted a perfect 18-0 mark in Atlantic 10 Conference play and climbed to No. 3 in the Associated Press top-25 poll. The Flyers were great in every way but fell a step short of their ultimate goal when the postseason was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sullivan has seen the state of the program affected by major injuries, coaching departures and conference reshuffling, but getting over the end of the 2019-20 season has been a challenge for him and all UD fans. He was scheduled to attend the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn as a credentialed member of the media — something he hadn’t been since his days as a communications major at UD — when it all ended March 12.

“It took me a while to appreciate the season,” Sullivan said, “and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Everything ended so abruptly, and you’re so salty, and it was so finite. Typically, when the rug gets pulled out from under you in life, you’re like, well, I’ll have another chance, or we’ll get them next time or whatever. The finality of there not being a next time was really hard to swallow.”

The new season begins for Dayton on Nov. 25 in Sioux Falls, S.D., in a tournament that does not yet have a name or a bracket. Athletic departments across the country, Dayton’s included, are racing to finish schedules that typically would have been done months ago.

Sullivan traveled to see the Flyers play in Phoenix and St. Louis last season. He saw them near home when they played Colorado at the United Center in Chicago. He often travels to see them play Duquesne in his hometown and makes the drive from Chicago to UD Arena numerous times every season.

Who knows what his experience as a fan will be in the 2020-21? The question of whether fans will be able to attend games hangs over the coming season. There’s also the question of how the team and the fan base will move on after the greatest regular season in school history and the most crushing postseason disappointment.

“I still, to this day, with the season a month away, think about where our fan base goes from here,” Sullivan said. “I really do. Obviously, people are going to get over the way the season finished, but as I’ve said to a lot of people, this is who we are now. The program is now the team in 2020 that we’ll never know about because it could be a decade or two before we ever have a team like that, if we ever have a team like that again at all. As I look back, I just think to myself if you’re not comfortable with wearing this badge moving forward, you better get comfortable with it really fast because this is what Dayton is now — fortunately or unfortunately.”

Same show, new title

The past season surely will be a big topic throughout the season ahead. Larry Hansgen, the longtime voice of the Flyers on WHIO Radio, helped Sullivan put it in perspective when he appeared on Talking Out Lowd on Oct. 1. Hansgen was the first guest on the renamed show, which also includes co-hosts Kevin Tuleta and Drew Westerheide.

Last season, when the show was called the Blackburn Review podcast, Sullivan turned what he described as an “irreverent fan show” that a couple of hundred of people listened to into something more mainstream. Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade was a guest in January. Sullivan also talked to former Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus, of the Titus and Tate podcast, and national college basketball writers such as Matt Norlander, Rob Dauster and Jeff Goodman.

The show topped 8,000 listeners when ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt talked to Sullivan in mid-February and averaged 5,000-6,000 listeners per week in March. Van Pelt delivered the perfect message to Dayton fans, a message that would seem even more relevant a month later. His advice to fans, in short, was, “Enjoy the ride.”

No one knew at that time how the ride would end. Everyone who rejoiced in the team’s success from the Maui Invitational in November to the Senior Night victory on March 7 without looking too much ahead to the NCAA tournament would have appreciated Van Pelt’s insight.

While Van Pelt’s appearance added legitimacy to the podcast, Sullivan said, and became a watershed moment for the show, which he joined four years earlier, he still revels more in the opportunities to talk to fans from around the A-10. Those types of guests, many of whom host their own podcasts, have been regulars on the show for years.

“As Dayton fans, we kind of look at those programs through a lens that has a film over it,” Sullivan said. “We know there are other fans over there, but we don’t know who they are. I like bringing that tone to the show. I like to think I’ve introduced people to them. These are just the same people as us who are wearing different color shirts.”

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