Remember the First Four? Remember how much Dayton loves the First Four, and how pretty much everyone agrees it should continue to host the event in perpetuity? Remember how that "pretty much everyone" doesn't necessarily include the NCAA, which has -- while proclaiming Dayton the obvious favorite to retain the event -- quietly taken on new bids for the event's location for 2016 and beyond?
Right. Well, that's still happening, it seems, and on Monday, CBS's Gary Parrish weighed in with an update:
But while talking to various folks connected to the sport of college basketball this weekend, I was surprised to hear some really do think it's at least possible that the NCAA will move the First Four from Dayton, perhaps to South Dakota ... To be clear, Dayton remains the favorite. But Sioux Falls, S.D., -- where Memphis and Wichita State will play a non-league game next month -- is considered a legitimate option ...
Parrish's update provides a concrete potential destination, which makes this seem like an even worse idea than before. But make no mistake: It was always a terrible idea. Why? As Gary writes:
I don't think it's possible to find a community that will support and attend the event the way Dayton has supported and attended the event since it became a four-game deal spread over two days in 2011.
To sum it up: Dayton, Ohio loves college basketball.
I could happily give you anecdotes to prove this point, but I don't really need to. Dayton backs up its love with math.
Since 1968, when UD Arena opened, Dayton has never ranked outside the top 35 in average home attendance. For the past 17 seasons, Flyers fans have finished among the top 30. A lot of those seasons have been mediocre: Dayton hasn't been to a Final Four since 1967, didn't go to a single NCAA tournament between 1991 and 1999, and made just six tournament appearances between 1990 and 2014. Meanwhile, out in the real world, Dayton's manufacturing-heavy economy barely survived decades-long stagnation. Flyers fans never stopped buying tickets.
This love extends to the First Four, too. Since 2001 -- long before the NCAA rebranded play-in games as the "First Four," and put bubble teams in the fixture alongside obscure 16-seeds -- local fans have been showing up to the NCAA's quasi-opener in droves. Even in the play-in days of yore, the event could bring in more fans than regional sites. The past two seasons, the First Four has drawn capacity crowds. In 2013, a committee of local businesses bent on keeping the event in Dayton bought 6,000 tickets and gave them away to the community.
According to the Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau, the First Four pumped $4.5 million into the local economy. That number, plus the "indirect impact" from "free, earned media," made the most recent First Four Dayton's biggest hosting success yet.
Dayton's business community was quick to report these figures for the same reason it was quick to give away 6,000 tickets: Last year, the NCAA began dropping the hints of a potential 2016 move.
It's one thing to weigh your options, especially when those options are vague. It behooves the NCAA to examine all possible avenues, consider and reconsider all potential revenue streams, and blah blah blah. When those options become more concrete, it's a different thing entirely -- and with all due respect to the fine people of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the whole notion now seems sillier than ever.
Saying Dayton remains the First Four favorite is good news, I suppose. But it's like saying "Yeah, we paid this month's rent." You should pay your rent. The First Four should be in Dayton. The city loves the NCAA's weird little creation almost as much as it loves its own team -- and it really, really loves its own team. Why complicate things?