N.I.T. Pickin

The last time Dayton (Ohio) made history - history this big, anyway - was on November 21, 1995. On that day, representatives from the Republic of Bosnia and Herezgovina, the Republic of Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, initialed what has become known as the Dayton Accord1. (Why that city was chosen as the meeting ground for these talks is unclear... One theory, though, says that it was selected for lack of distractions: Talking peace with your enemies is the most entertaining thing one can do in Dayton.)

But that was then, and this is now - and even something as important (or petty) as an international peace pact cannot compare with the magnitude of the history made March 13, 2001, as the NCAA men's basketball tournament hosted its first ever "play-in" game at University of Dayton Arena, 1801 Edwin C. Moses Blvd., 45408.

The play-in game pitted #17 seed Winthrop versus #16 seed Northwestern St.; the winner (Northwestern St.) earned the right to enter into the field of 64 and to subsequently be embarrassed by the Midwest Region's #1 seed, Illinois, three days later.

Again, why Dayton was selected as the meeting ground is unclear. Nor, for that matter, is it known why the NCAA needed a play-in game to begin with.

But you won't hear Daytonians complaining. Nope, they'll be boasting about this indefinitely, just like they're still boasting about the fact that their city is the hometown to Orville and Wilbur Wright. (Of course, no one talks about the fact that Orv and Willie flew the coop for North Carolina as soon as they were old enough to know better.)

And they'll be boasting about the fact that, starting on the 13th and lasting six days, UD Arena - with seating capacity 13,161; with distance from floor-to-ceiling 50 feet, from end-to-end 260 feet; and with 12 concession stands and 4,400 on-site parking spaces - was the epicenter of American basketball... no less than eight games were played there in that time span.

In the NCAA men's tournament, Illinois and Kansas advanced to the Sweet 16 out of Dayton. And the University of Dayton's own Flyers advanced, by winning on their home floor twice, defeating North Carolina-Wilmington there on March 14 and Richmond on March 19, to the Great Eight of the 32-team NIT (National Invitation Tournament).

Though not worshipped by the media, this NIT is important stuff. Started in 1938 by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, the NIT is the elder (one year the NCAA's senior) of the post-season college basketball tourneys, and it, not the NCAA tournament, used to be the most maddening thing about March. In fact, teams used to spurn invitations to the NCAA in favor of the NIT.

But few, if any, NIT brackets are posted in offices anywhere today (except maybe in New York City, where the semifinals and finals are played each year in Madison Square Garden and in Las Vegas), so a team picking it over the Big Dance doesn't happen.

Still, NIT ball is every bit as exciting to watch as that in the NCAA play-offs.

One reason why is that, since 1977, the first three rounds of the tournament are played at on-campus sites. This format allows community members and college students to attend the games, whereas most opening round NCAA games, because they are generally quite a trek from respective campuses, can only be attended by affluent students and those in the band. Incidentally, Kentucky fans congregated to form the NIT's largest crowd in 1979 when 23,522 gathered in Rupp only to see Clemson beat the Cats in overtime.

Another reason why the NIT is fun is that there is a great deal of parity among the teams. There are no #1 vs. #16 match-ups (blowouts). In fact, there are no seeds at all. Just two types of oft-lesser-known teams that either (a) feel jaded that they didn't make the NCAA tourney or (b) are tickled that they get to play some more hoop... and this typically inspires both types to play harder.

The above two reasons make the NIT a more touchy-feely, a more homespun tournament than its glamorous younger brother. There's an aura about it like something out of the movie Hoosiers. If you win three games, you're rewarded with getting to go to the big city to play two more. (There is a consolation match in the NIT Final Four, something the NCAA may want to consider reinstating.)

But although old-fashioned, the NIT is nonetheless unpredictable - like that time in '68 when Oklahoma City coach Abe Lemons, in ire, kept his boys on the floor at halftime and had them scrimmage shirts and skins.

Or like that time last Monday night when I was flipping through my (6) channels and stumbled across the Dayton Flyers. I adjusted the TV's rabbit ears and squinted through the static as (refreshingly hometown) announcers vociferated with verve their desire for a Flyers win. And win they did, as mentioned above.

But, to my pleasant surprise, nobody knew where, or when, Dayton would play its next NIT game... and the announcers said we wouldn't know until sometime during the 11 o'clock news.

And I said it is good to know that there's still one post-season hoops tournament not controlled by CBS Sports.


1. The 16-article agreement called for the three parties to "fully respect the sovereign equality of one another and to settle disputes by peaceful means" and also for them to "cooperate fully with all entities, including those authorized by the United Nations Security Council, in implementing the peace settlement and investigating and prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law."

It really didn't work out well.

In fact, according to an International Crisis Group Report in 1999, one of the only successes of the Agreement was that it created common license plates.


Hear hear, Kentucky Bands!

Your radio station not playing enough local music for you? Tired of the national ignorami who populate the airwaves, or the Tulsa goth-country band you've never heard of? There is a solution, assuming you've stepped foot onto the information superhighway.

Check out the glory of web radio at Bubble's Cat Club Internet Radio (, a web station dedicated to promoting the plethora of bands that exist in the Bluegrass State. This station, started by Paul J. Ramsey (who once operated a club by the same name in Richmond) always rank in the top 25 when it comes to alternative pop rock radio stations at its host-site, Benefiting from that popularity are Kentucky stalwarts Catawampus Universe, Supafuzz, CUT.LOVE.KILL, and Taildragger among others.

To become one with Bubble's Cat Club Internet Radio, one must simply possess the latest version of real audio, which means you ought to have RealPlayer 8. In reality, any streaming MP3 audio player should work, but RealPlayer is the least likely to make your computer cry. A cable modem works best, of course, to eliminate all the skipping and hissing, but it's not strictly necessary either. There's no need to fear an ordeal; if you don't already have the proper setup, then Live365 can configure your PC for Internet radio with minimal fuss. Bands interested in being on the station should send e-mail and audio clips to

-Chas J. Hartman

Baby I'm a Star

Lexington has gone, like, so L.A., as the Downtown Lexington Corporation announced its latest project to beautify your lovely downtown area. Not as grand as those horse statues but with far more star appeal, the Kentucky Stars Project is a chance for Kentucky celebrities to be acknowledged by having markers with their autographs placed in one of three prominent locations ( in front of the Kentucky Theatre, the Central Library, and the Downtown Arts Center) on Main Street.

So, what's it take to be a star? Well, for one, the nominee can be either living or deceased and must have been Kentucky-born or raised or have lived in Kentucky for ten full years. They must be a professional or amateur with "a long term commitment to excellence in the arts in one or more of the following areas: dance, film, music, television, theatre, visual arts, and literature."

Once the celebrities have been chosen by the selection committee (comprising such downtown figures as Fred Mills and Deb Shoss), there will be a ceremony to honor the selected "Stars" as their marker is placed in the sidewalk. Can you look forward to seeing Jim Varney's star? Loretta Lynn's star? Smiley Pete? A double star for the two resident Backstreet Boys? You'll have to wait until mid-summer when the big announcement is made. Expect five to seven stars to be awarded each year, depending on the nominations. Let's just hope that no star awaits the mullet sporting Billy Ray Cyrus... -EC