George Mason’s Will Thomas celebrates toward the end of their win over Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2006. Chris Stewart/Staff

Dayton dissed in publication supporting Pennsylvania town's bid for NCAA First Four

Hershey, Pa. is making a move to host the NCAA tournament's First Four, an event Dayton has hosted since 2011.

A Pennsylvania newspaper has come out swinging in support, and fired a shot at Dayton in the process.

THE BACKGROUND

The NCAA is opening bids for tournament venues for years 2019-2022.

Dayton has hosted the opening games since 2001, when the NCAA expanded the field to 65 teams and added a play-in game. In 2011, Dayton began hosting the First Four when the field was expanded to 68.

According to David Jones of Pennlive.com (the website for the Harrisburg Patriot-News), Hershey's Giant Center is making an effort to bring the First Four tournament to Hershey, which hasn't hosted a March Madness-level event. The local visitor's bureau is hoping to to recruit Penn State to act as host school and make an official bid.

Jones quotes NCAA tournament communications director David Worlock, who said Dayton wouldn't get preferential treatment "due to its long-term and successful relationship with the NCAA," but Dayton's success hosting NCAA tournament games will be considered.

"At the same time, other cities have been (involved) in the last bid cycle," Worlock said. "We expect more cities to do that this year. And everything will be taken into consideration."

THE DISS ON DAYTON

In his column, Jones fired a shot at Dayton, saying: "... the Hershey entertainment and amusement complex offers a superior on-site tourism center to Dayton, which is basically a dusty old industrial town with impressive flight museums based on its Wright Brothers and Air Force heritage and not a lot else to do."

Jones did list some of Dayton's possible advantages: UD Arena is larger than Giant Center and is located just down the street from its host school. It has drawn large crowds annually for the tournament, and has a history of hosting the First Four. 

There are no Division I schools close to Hershey, which has a population of under 15,000 and is part of the Harrisburg metro area, which is 96th in the country in terms of population. Dayton's population is 143,355 with a metro area ranking 61st.

While Hershey is two hours from Penn State, Jones said a possible selling point is Hershey is closer to East Coast population centers.

But Dayton is closer to the U.S. population center, which is important considering the short turnaround between the First Four and Selection Sunday. It's also two hours from the second and third largest cities in the Midwest -- Indianapolis and Columbus -- and an hour from Cincinnati, as well as driving distance from several other major metro areas.

Forbes Magazine in March reported the play-in games and First Four had poured $66 million into the Dayton economy since 2001. In 2012, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron attended the tournament.

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