March Madness 2023 has produced of Cinderella stories, but none have been quite like Fairleigh Dickinson.
In front of nearly 20,000 fans at Columbus, Ohio’s Value City Arena, as well as millions of viewers worldwide, FDU pulled off the near-impossible, becoming just the second 16-seed to upset a 1-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament, defeating Purdue in an instant classic.
Without question, this is uncharted territory for FDU. In addition to rewriting the NCAA’s history books, FDU has advanced in the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school’s 57 years at the Division 1 level. That said, this NCAA Tournament run has quite literally provided the biggest stage that FDU has ever played on, in front of the biggest crowd.
It’s a polar opposite environment from what FDU is used to, as its home gym is one of the most humble in all of college basketball.
MORE: No. 16 FDU latest Cinderella to upend Purdue | UMBC celebrates FDU membership in exclusive March Madness club
Let’s take a dive inside Stratis Arena, the Knights’ home that holds fewer than 2,000 fans.
Inside Stratis Arena, the humble home of FDU
Located on FDU’s Metropolitan Campus in Hackensack, N.J., Stratis Arena sits inside The George and Phyllis Rothman Center, which is nestled up against the Hackensack River. It opened its doors in September 1987. The arena’s official name is Stratis Arena at Rothman Center and has a listed capacity of 1,852 fans.
Among other features in Rothman Center includes four playing courts, a six-lane, 200-meter track encircling the main arena playing courts and a long jump pit.
The arena itself is named after FDU alumna Mary Kay Stratis, described as “a University trustee, an advocate for FDU student-athletes” who has been “a generous benefactor to the University.”
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Visually, the arena resembles much more of a gymnasium, with limited rows of bleachers on each sideline and behind each goal.
Enjoyed attending and covering @FDUKnightsMBB open practice for the media today @ #StratisArena Inside The #RothmanCenter #Hackensack #NewJersey @FDUWhatsNew for @JSNSPORTINGNEWS 🏀 pic.twitter.com/PvZCaqYwpR
— Sunil Sunder Raj – Sports Interviews To Get Seen (@SunilSunderRaj3) March 10, 2023
Almost go time in the (201).
🆚 #FDU vs. Saint Francis U
🗓️ Thursday, 1/26
⏰ 7 p.m.
🧦 Knights socks giveaway pic.twitter.com/SEdrQuMVPA
— FDU Men’s Basketball (@FDUKnightsMBB) January 25, 2023
Small as Stratis arena is, its size is on par with the size of most basketball venues in the Northeast Conference, the largest of which has a capacity of just over 3,000.
MORE: History of 16 vs. 1 upsets after FDU joins UMBC | How FDU secured NCAA Tournament AQ bid
For comparison, Purdue’s Mackey Arena, the site of the team FDU upset in Round 1 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, is more than seven times larger than FDU’s home.
Fairleigh Dickinson: 1,852 pic.twitter.com/4IZFXfYkF1
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) March 18, 2023
During the 2022-23 season, FDU’s largest home crowd came in the semifinals of the NEC conference tournament as 1,207 fans piled into the Rothman Center to cheer the Knights to a victory over Saint Francis (PA).
⛈️ | You bet we stormed we the court!@BSStormChasers missed a good one 😏#reigKNIGHTed pic.twitter.com/Kd7m3nhJ4R
— FDU Men’s Basketball (@FDUKnightsMBB) March 5, 2023
And while FDU has yet to produce an NBA player, Hall of Famers David Robinson and Dennis Rodman shot a classic Pizza Hut commercial at the Rothman Center in the early 1990s, something the FDU Knights’ website made sure everyone knew.
Additionally, promotional videos for Foot Locker and inspirational videos by Dick Vitale have been filmed at Stratis Arena.
After taking down Purdue, FDU is set to face a Florida Atlantic team that plays its home games in an arena with a capacity of under 3,000 fans. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
FDU moving on to play in the world’s most famous arena would be a storybook development that would be impossible to make up.