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NCAA needs to be cautious about moving First Four out of Dayton

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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La Salle and Boise State play in a First Four game last March in Dayton (Getty Images)

Even though Dayton has enthusiastically supported the NCAA tournament's play-in round since its inception, the city is not guaranteed to remain the host site for the First Four beyond 2015.

The NCAA rejected a proposal from the University of Dayton that would have kept the event in the city for years to come, opting instead to allow other cities to bid on the rights to host the First Four from 2016-18 as well. Dayton remains a strong candidate to win the bid, but the NCAA's position suggests it's serious about considering other options.

There's no harm in the NCAA exploring other potential host sites, but the organization would be wise not to discount the large crowds, consistent media coverage and spirited welcome receptions Dayton provides.

The First Four already carries enough of a stigma as the play-in round to qualify for the round of 64. It would only heighten that if the games occurred in front of sparse crowds in a disinterested host city.

There are other promising options for the NCAA, however, if it decides to uproot the First Four from Dayton.

It could rotate the First Four among similar mid-sized cities with a history of supporting college basketball, like Omaha or Kansas City for example. It could house the First Four in a different historic basketball arena each year such as the Palestra in Philadelphia or Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Or it could abandon the idea of a host city altogether and play each individual game in the arena where the winner would play its round of 64 game two days later.

All of these are viable possibilities and worthy of consideration. Still, the NCAA has a good thing going with the tradition it has built in Dayton, and it might not be smart to mess with that.

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