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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

The NCAA makes a wise choice keeping First Four in Dayton

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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For those hoping the NCAA tournament's First Four will one day rotate among some of college basketball's most historic venues, it appears it may be a while before Dayton cedes control of the event.

The NCAA announced on Monday that Dayton will continue to host the First Four through at least 2013, a fitting reward considering both of last year's double-headers drew more than 10,000 fans apiece. Other potential venues were discussed, but it never became serious enough for the NCAA to entertain other bids.

"The community's enthusiasm and the commitment demonstrated by the University of Dayton staff make Dayton an ideal host for the First Four," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee. "We decided Dayton would be best to host the inaugural event and now we believe we should start the championship in Dayton through the championship's 75th anniversary in 2013."

Many have pushed for the First Four to rotate among historic arenas such as the Palestra or Hinkle Fieldhouse, but it's understandable that the NCAA would choose to keep the event in Dayton. Whereas fans in Dayton have proven they'll show up to watch the likes of Clemson and Alabama-Birmingham battle for a spot in the round of 64, there's no guarantee other cities would have the same enthusiasm for the event.

Hotel staffs in Dayton donned the colors of the team they hosted and played the school's fight song as the team arrived during the inaugural First Four last year. City officials also hung NCAA tournament banners on lampposts at the airport to promote a big event atmosphere. And most importantly, the fans showed up in droves, just as they have since Dayton began hosting the original play-in game between potential 16 seeds back in 2001.

"There's no reason we can't be like Omaha taking the College World Series. There's no reason we can't take this niche and make it synonymous with Dayton," Dayton athletic director Tim Wabler told the Dayton Daily News.

"(The NCAA) gave us an overview of the comments they received by each program, and, to a team, we heard the community of Dayton and the University of Dayton really laid it out for them and made them feel they were at a national championship event, which was our objective."

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