Backyard basketball

UD interest more with NCAA, not rivals

By Marc Katz

Given the choice of playing a long-time natural rival or going to the NCAA tournament on an at-large bid, UD athletics director Neil Sullivan is going to take the bid every time.

I’ve always thought you could have both, but then, I’m on this side of the ropes; not the other side, where decisions are made.

Neil didn’t say he was happy about the way college schedules are turning, but he didn’t say he was unhappy, either. He’s in some kind of long-term discussion with Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Xavier, to get those three schools and UD on the schedule in any kind of format, but isn’t in a hurry to include Wright State (or Miami for that matter), and won’t be pulled into a conversation about why.

“I try not to get caught up on one specific team or one specific history as much as we do what the current criteria calls for,” Sullivan said.

“I have all the respect in the world for Wright State. Right now, it just doesn’t fit our scheduling model. It’s that simple.”

The scheduling criteria includes playing as many Power Five conference teams as possible without having every one of those games on the road or loading up on the Dukes, North Carolinas, Kentuckys and Michigan States when it would be easier to play the Northwesterns, Vanderbilts and Wake Forests.

You still get a Power Five boost from playing those teams, but not a kick in the mouth and trip to the dentist.

Sullivan also wants to make sure his team is on display around the country, and that he has plenty of home games. Still, the exact criteria are tough to dislodge.

“Every time you get into that, people try to poke holes into it,” Sullivan said, without raising his voice. “The totality of the schedule, which has a lot of nuance to it, we just don’t believe it [a WSU game] fits for what our model is. I’m not trying to be difficult. My predecessor and I have been very consistent about that. It’s just the truth.”

It’s not like UD hasn’t been shunned before, either. The Flyers used to have a nice series going with Notre Dame, Marquette, DePaul, and Xavier, but I haven’t seen those teams around the twice-remodeled Arena for a while.

Now, at least there are discussions involving at least Xavier coming back.

So what are we looking at, a four-team, three-day OSU, UC, X, UD basketball extravaganza moving from arena-to-arena year-to-year? Are we looking at exempt tournaments, or just games? Are we looking at every-other-year matchups?

Among those four schools, only UC and X have a yearly battle (it really was a battle in December, 2011, almost scuttling the series), and Ohio State only recently picked up a few games with UC.

Any additional games among those geographically close schools would be exciting.

“Really, we’ve talked about those four schools in the 12 years I’ve been here,” Sullivan said. “It’s come up over the years just in terms of could it happen, how could it happen, what would it look like? It got a little bit of momentum when Chris Holtmann over at Ohio State made a couple of comments, coming from Crossroads.” The Crossroads Classic is a popular annual event held since 2011 in Indianapolis featuring Butler (Holtmann’s previous school), Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame.

So we’re looking at a sort of Southwest Ohio Classic, to put a name on it.

“That’s really as far as it’s gone, just trying to gauge if there genuine interest, which there seems to be,” Sullivan said. “Logistics, timing and all those kind of things the average person may not see, can be difficult.”

Sullivan would not put a date on it, but don’t look for those schools to trade dunks for a while. Certainly not next season. As for using the four schools building an exempt tournament – three games count as one on the schedule – that’s probably not going to happen.

Schools like to go to more glamorous sites for those tournaments, and Sullivan says he has UD committed at least through 2022.

“We’ve not gotten to any level of detail,” Sullivan said about games with OSU, UC, and X. Take the average Big Ten team. They play in the Big Ten-ACC challenge, the Big Ten-Big East Gavitt Games. They typically play in another exempt tournament. “There’s a lot of pieces to the chess board.

“It’s way too early for me to surmise. I wouldn’t even want to speculate. It would be unfair to speculate. It’s just having some conversations about there being interest.

“What we’re focused on is just building a schedule that gives us the best possible chance to get an at-large berth.

“Rivalries are good for sport, they’re good for fans, good for all the things that go into making college sports unique, but the environment is such now, that Nebraska is in the Big Ten. Rutgers is in the Big Ten. Maryland is in the Big Ten. Texas A&M is in the SEC.

“It’s just the way the world moves, you can’t get too caught up on rivalries as much, Our bar is playing in the NCAA tournament. If you have a bunch of rivalries but you’re not in the NCAA tournament, that’s not helpful, either.”

Maybe so, although I’d still like to see UD and WSU play again. At least its nice UD is talking with OSU, UC and X.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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