The luckiest fan in college basketball

Daniel Nardini’s quest to see all 351 Division I teams

daniel-nardini

Most people don’t post their travel plans on the internet. Daniel Nardini actually wants you to know where he’s going. 

For the past five college basketball seasons, Nardini has regularly announced and updated the schedule of games he’s going to. 

Nardini is trying to see all 351 Division I college basketball arenas.

Nardini is a college basketball fanatic. After working as an IT developer, Nardini spends his retirement traveling around the country trying to see every game he can. He has currently visited 67 of 351 – now 353 – Division I arenas. Along the way Dan has been posting updates on his quest at journeyto351.com, a blog his daughter set up for him. Nardini made the trip from Connecticut to Buffalo to watch the Bulls play their season-opener against Saint Francis.

“I still get a rush when I get to the court and I hear the sneakers squeaking and the band playing,” Nardini said. “There's a piece of Americana in every game. You see the old couple being greeted by the assistant athletic director probably because they're big donors, you see the middle-aged guy with a team T-shirt arguing every call, every game you see the same people."

Nardini grew up a UCONN fan, cheering for the Husky teams throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. He watched with his dad at the place where his love for the sport began.

Now, Nardini watches most games alone. His wife and kids do not have the love for the sport in the same way he does. His family isn’t part of the journey but supports him and reads the stories he posts on his blog. 

Nardini does admit he is able to drag his wife to one game a season. This season, he’ll be traveling to the University of Central Florida to see the team play UCONN. The only catch is that now they have to go to Disney World as well.

Sometimes he will go with a close friend or meet up with a buddy who lives nearby. Through Reddit, Nardini has met people who have invited him out to go to a game.

Nardini observes the oddities of each arena and focuses on the aspects of the game-day experience more than the performances of the team. 

“Alumni Arena has great viewing from all levels, so I was happy with my seat even though it was out of range from the many T-shirts thrown into the crowd at every three-point basket made,” Nardini said. 

Nardini pointed out similar gripes as many students do, such as the poor parking and the weather. Last year, Nardini had to cancel his trip to Buffalo because of a blizzard. Nardini took note this year and visited early in the season. He traveled to St. Bonaventure the day after for the team’s home opener.

The Reilly Center at St. Bonaventure is an arena he describes as having a lot of “S.O.L.” It stands for small, old and loud. 

Two games in two days, something most fans can only dream of.

“People are jealous, people are like ‘why do you want to waste your time,’” Nardini said. “Some say they would drop their job in a heartbeat if they could do that. I'm living the dream right now.”

After the Buffalo game, Nardini had the opportunity to speak with Bulls men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats. Oats and Nardini spoke about his journey and the Oats’ friendship with current UCONN head coach Dan Hurley. Oats spent two years as an assistant coach under Bobby Hurley, Dan Hurley’s brother.

“You have won over this guy to be a lifelong Buffalo fan,” Nardini wrote on his blog. “Good luck the rest of the way!”

Next up Nardini said he is traveling to Ithaca to see Cornell and Colgate play on Nov. 11. 

“I don't want it to be a full time job,” Nardini said. “I'm enjoying it. I can make a bigger production out of it, but I'm happy the way it's going right now.”

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson