The University of Dayton’s
basketball team is flying high on the court and off, competing
with — and out earning — powerhouses with bigger athletic
Even though it spends less on its program than any other
school remaining in college basketball’s national tournament,
Dayton ranked eighth in profit among the 16 teams that made it
to the second weekend of the National Collegiate Athletic
Association tournament, according to data schools submit to the
US Department of Education.
The 11th-seeded Flyers defeated Stanford 82-72 last night
in Memphis to reach the regional finals and will face top-seeded
Florida tomorrow, with the winner advancing to the Final Four.
Athletic Director Tim Wabler credits the school’s fans —
who contribute $3.3 million annually in required season ticket
donations and have kept the program’s attendance among the
country’s top 30 for the past 17 years. Dayton, a Catholic
university with an undergraduate enrollment of 8,000, brings in
84 percent more men’s basketball revenue than three-time
tournament champion University of Connecticut, with about half
“Flyers fans have really always been there for this
team,” Wabler said in a telephone interview. “In a lot of
ways, with this year’s success they are being rewarded for their
Dayton had advanced to the round of 16 with upsets of
sixth-seeded Ohio State and No. 3 Syracuse, earning
congratulations on Twitter from US President Barack Obama.
After the second win, university president Dan Curran crowd-surfed through a mob celebrating in Dayton, and fans gathered
the following morning at 3:30 am to welcome the team bus when
it returned to campus.
Dayton’s basketball team generated $11.3 million in revenue
in fiscal 2013, against $3.9 million in expenses, according to
the documents on the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis website.
The program has returned $2.72 in revenue for every dollar it
spent on men’s basketball over the past five years, trailing
only Ohio State, Arizona, North Carolina and Louisville in
college basketball’s top division.
Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist who wrote the book
“Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time
College Sports,” said Dayton’s location in the central US —
what Wabler called “basketball country” — as well as
marketing and avid fans boost revenue. He also said the school’s
lack of top-division football may help.
“It concentrates attention and energy on basketball,”
Zimbalist said in a telephone interview.
The Dayton basketball team accounted for about half of the
athletic department’s $23 million revenue in fiscal 2013. The
football team, which competes in the Football Championship
Subdivision, brought in $197,346 in revenue against $1 million
in expenses. The department as a whole broke even.
Flyers coach Archie Miller, who this week received a
contract extension through 2019, said after the team’s victory
against Syracuse that the support of the Dayton athletic
department and its fans matched the country’s most prominent
“If you’re a player at our place, you experience the same
stuff that you can experience at a Syracuse in terms of the way
they’re cared about and treated,” said Miller, 35.
Dayton requires a donation to the basketball program from
anyone buying one of the roughly 6,000 season tickets in the
lower portion of University of Dayton Arena. The donations
amount to $3.3 million in annual revenue, according to Wabler.
Combine that with the roughly $3.5 million the program receives
from ticket sales, and fans getting in the door account for more
than half the program’s revenue total.
“The real key for us is that there’s such a demand for
arena seating that it gave us that opportunity,” Wabler said.
The program also receives more than $2 million in annual
corporate sponsorships at the 13,455-seat arena, according to
Wabler. The school owns the arena, which includes eight suites
Defending NCAA champion Louisville, which faces Kentucky
tonight, had $42.4 million in revenue in 2013, $16.4 million
more than the next closest program. A majority of that revenue
comes from ticket sales at the KFC Yum! Center and donations
which, like Dayton, includes requirements tied to its 71 suites
and premium seating.
“So Dayton’s $11 million in revenue is certainly healthy,
but it doesn’t make them an outlier in terms of the best
basketball schools in the country,” said Zimbalist, who
cautioned that the education department’s data doesn’t have a
standard accounting system.
Dayton, which plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference, has
reached the NCAA tournament final once, in 1967, when it lost to
UCLA. The team last reached the round of eight in 1984.
Outside of Dayton, Flyers fans have a reputation among
invitational tournaments as a passionate group that follows the
team to away games. Dayton played in the Maui Invitational last
November, and will travel to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off next
“The Dayton fans were out in full force, dressed in red
and blue, they had painted faces and oversized photo faces of
players and coach Miller, and that may be the first time we’ve
ever seen that in Maui,” said Tom Valdiserri, executive vice
president at KemperLesnik, which manages the Maui Invitational.
“If you had to describe their fans I would use words like
classy, passionate, proud and enthusiastic.”
They’ve shown the passion digitally as well. According to
data gathered by social media analytics company Simply Measured
Inc., the Flyers have 59,788 mentions on Twitter since the
brackets were announced, 72 percent more than the next closest
tournament team (Kentucky at 34,715).
Dayton’s arena has hosted the NCAA tournament’s four-game
opening round for each of the past four years. The athletic
department rents the venue to the NCAA and receives about
$100,000 annually for it, according to athletics spokesman Doug
Hauschild. That total is not counted in the school’s basketball
That’s just one example of how the basketball fans are
helping other parts of the Dayton program. Wabler said that
since the mid-1990s, all of the athletic department’s
competition and practice facilities are either new or completely
renovated — a total cost of more than $35 million funded by
donors and basketball success.
Dayton at 75/1 had the longest title odds of the final 16
tournament teams, according to Bovada.lv. Wabler said four more
Flyers wins, culminating in a national championship in
Arlington, Texas, on April 7, would probably mean more financial
stability for years to come.
“For men’s basketball and the rest of our programs,” he
Men’s Basketball Finances For Round of 16 Teams (From US
Department of Education website, fiscal year ended June 2013)
Program Basketball Expenses Basketball Revenue
Dayton $3.98 million $11.30 million
Florida $8.22 million $13.39 million
UCLA $12.72 million $12.37 million
Virginia $6.56 million $7.66 million
Arizona $7.81 million $24.94 million
Wisconsin $6.52 million $19.23 million
Kentucky $13.67 million $23.20 million
Louisville $15.65 million $42.40 million
UConn $7.29 million $6.15 million
Tennessee $4.86 million $13.32 million
Michigan $6.49 million $14.80 million
Iowa State $5.29 million $8.61 million
San Diego St. $5.61 million $6.50 million
Baylor $7.25 million $7.49 million
Michigan St. $9.45 million $18.50 million
Stanford $4.36 million $5.41 million
Total $125.75 million $235.26 million
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Eben Novy-Williams in New York at
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