Every college sports team has its own unique set of fans and traditions, and the University of Dayton’s “Flyer Faithful” are no different. They’re known for their dedication to travel in packs to away games and filling the local UD Arena with red at every turn.
Joe Maimone, of New Jersey, a 1987 graduate of UD, said he always wears his “lucky red shirt” when watching the UD Flyers, either in person or on the TV. He’s also got a piece of the Fieldhouse floor signed by former head coach Don Donoher.
“Our (‘87) class is unique because our freshman year was the first time the Flyers went to the Elite 8,” Maimone said. “In one lifetime, not many can say they’ve been to two Elite 8 teams. … It added a heck of a lot of memories and experiences.”
Maimone said his eldest son Joey, 16, has already said he’ll be applying to UD for college.
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Maimone said he organizes game-watch parties for the northern New Jersey area that’s home to hundreds of UD alums. But he will also drive a four-hour radius to attend the games in person.
“I travel far and wide when I can,” Maimone said. “I wear the same shirt to the big games.”
Maimone said one time during a flight he racked up a $200 phone bill just to listen to the second half of a Flyers game as his friend on land held the phone up to the TV.
Fans hit the road
Gary McCans, director of event operations at UD, said there are 10,000 season ticket holders for home games. But he said the fans don’t stop there.
“They’re very creative in obtaining tickets from other schools,” McCans said of away games. “Last year in Memphis when you walked in it was just red everywhere. Our fans called Stanford and bought tickets through their office.”
McCans said wearing red is a “rich tradition” for Flyers fans.
McCans said prior to the game in Memphis last season, the Alumni Association even had to rent a city park within a block of the arena to hold all the Flyers fans that flocked to the city and couldn’t fit into the pre-game venue.
“The fans are just incredible; home games are a unique atmosphere,” said Jim Larkin, of Miami Twp., a 1972 graduate. “Even on the road, Dayton fans come.”
For those alumni that still live in the region — and there’s 20,000 of them — the UD Alumni Association organizes game watches at area establishments during away games.
Ray Wabler, of Beavercreek, a 1974 graduate, said he’s been a season ticket holder for 20 years and “seldom” misses a home game.
“The fans are certainly engaged and know the team stats; the Flyer Faithful is very passionate about the team,” said Gloria Marano, of Oakwood, a 1988 graduate and past president of the Dayton alumni association. “(At watch parties) it’s the atmosphere of being at UD Arena but on a smaller scale.”
Alumni, current students and the community at large will often gather at watering holes near the UD Arena for pre- and post-game celebrations, including Flanagan’s Pub and Kramer’s Party Supply & Pizza.
Wabler said he goes to Flanagan’s Pub after every game for the WHIO post-game radio show “Flyer Feedback.”
Matt Trapp, bartender at Flanagan’s, said the bar has been around since the 1930s and it’s naturally become a common spot for UD alumni.
“It’s just that natural neighborhood progression; the bar has always been here,” Trapp said.
Ryan Phillips, a junior at UD and president of the Red Scare, a student organization of spirited fans that attend sporting events, said the biggest sport at UD is men’s basketball.
He said the Red Scare acts as the “pulse of UD Arena” and keeps the energy levels high in the student section and for the other 12,000 fans in the arena.
“During the course of the game, the students are still going nuts,” Phillips said. “We keep the UD Arena alive and keep the other team on edge.”
Even if the students can’t attend in person, they often gather in groups at Flanagan’s or Milano’s to watch the games.
“You see (community) encompassed through Flyer basketball,” Phillips said. “After last year and their magical run, 85 to 90 percent of campus is watching.”
To learn more about the Dayton community’s love affair with the UD Flyers and to relive their magical run in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, read “True Team: The Dayton Flyers’ Run to the Elite Eight,” available on Amazon and locally at Flyer Spirit on Brown Street, the UD Bookstore on campus, and the bookshop at Carillon Park.