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By Eric Spina

The day starts early for the Dayton Flyers.

In between weight lifting and a morning run, the men’s cross country team paused to meet the new president. I shared with the students my story of short-lived intercollegiate athletic, um, “glory.”

I enjoyed some success as a shot putter and discus thrower at Canisius High School in Buffalo. When I enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University, which competed at the Division III level in track and field, I thought, “I’ll teach them a thing or two about how Buffalo boys throw the discus.”

I lasted all of two weeks after discovering how difficult it was to lift weights, practice, run — and go to classes. I hadn’t even competed yet. For those who do, I know it is a commitment beyond compare.

We expect our nearly 400 student-athletes to aspire for excellence on the fields and the courts and demand that they be strong achievers in the classroom, too. We also ask them to volunteer in the community and be responsible citizens. It’s a high bar.

In the last few weeks, I’ve met with coaches and student-athletes competing in fall sports; cheered at football games, cross country meets and volleyball and soccer matches; and I learned about our student-athletes’ passion for our beloved University and their sport.

I also posed for an Instagram photo in the Humanities Plaza with the infamous Red Scare, students who have rightly earned their reputation as the rowdiest, most loyal fans in the country.

We have a lot to cheer.

In the last seven years, our teams have tallied 29 conference championships in eight sports, and 21 teams reached the NCAA tournament (including the men’s and women’s basketball Elite Eight runs). Our 95 percent graduation success rate is 25th best in the country. Dayton student-athletes’ combined cumulative grade point average has risen to a school-record of 3.305. In the last year alone, these students logged more than 2,000 community service hours.

This is an intercollegiate athletics program that wins championships and hearts. It’s one of integrity. It’s one of balance. Ultimately, our student-athletes will wear the cap and gown as proudly as their uniforms emblazoned with “Dayton Flyers.”

As I stop by practices to meet these dedicated student-athletes, I bring a message of gratitude: “Thank you for representing the University of Dayton with your commitment, tenacity and talent. You inspire all of us to reach higher.”


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