NKU hoping first NCAA appearance pays dividends off the court as well

03/13/2017 09:50 PM

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball squad has made history this season in making the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in school history, the first season that they were eligible to do so.

While the team has been making a splash and impact on the court, the impact the appearance in the tourney could make for the university off the court could last long after the games are over.

History has shown that there are positive ramifications for schools whose teams qualify for the “big dance.”

According to a 2009 study, applications to a university that had its men’s basketball team play in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Division one Basketball Tournament rose by an average of 1-percent the following year. Teams with greater success saw larger rises, and tournament winners typically saw an increase by 7 to 8 percent.

A 2009 study by brothers and economics professors Jaren and Devin Pope showed that just making it into the men’s NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in applications the following year. Each round a team advances increases the percentage: 3 percent for Sweet 16 teams, 4 to 5 percent for Final Four teams and 7 to 8 percent for the winner.

In the 2010 tournament, after the University of Northern Iowa pulled off a major upset by beating number one seed Kansas, there was a massive influx of donations to the school, according to ESPN. Northern Iowa’s Athletic Director Troy Dannen raised nearly 2-million dollars in donations in the 72 hours between the team’s wins in the first two games of the tournament and their departure for the sweet sixteen. Additionally, after Northern Iowa beat Kansas, sales to the school’s online store jumped 1,577 percent from February to March.

Butler’s appearance in the 2010 and 2011 championship game resulted in very valuable exposure for the university. According to a study done by media firms Borshoff and Melwater, the combined publicity value for the university was about $1.2 billion. Butler also saw a 41 percent increase in applications after its 2010 run.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s admissions statistics offer even more insight into the Flutie effect. In 2011 VCU made it to the final four, the next year it made it to the third round. The school saw an increase in applicants but the big difference was seen in the number of out-of-state applicants coming in.

In 2008, VCU reported that 92 percent of freshman were from Virginia. In 2012, that number dropped to 85 percent, according to an analysis by ESPN. That increase in out-of-state students meant almost $3.4 million more in tuition for the school.

NKU Associate Professor of Marketing, Sports Business & Construction Management Joe Cobbs, believes that the school stands to benefit from the likelihood of more students considering NKU because of the publicity the school has received for making the tournament.

“I think the publicity a tournament run brings or a tournament berth brings raises that profile and gets NKU into that consideration set for a lot of students,” Cobbs said.

Another area Cobb’s sees the school might potentially benefit from is increased alumni donations.

“I would expect to see, or a school like NKU, you will see a little bit of a bump in donations to the athletic department and also the the university because of that pride factor,” Cobbs said.

Cobbs believes that another area NKU will see a spike is in ticket sales for next season as well as merchandise related to the university, which he believes will have a big effect on the minds of NKU students.

“If you’re walking around campus and you see more people wearing NKU gear, and affiliating themselves with that pride, of that aspect of being connected to the university, then it becomes more of a social norm around campus and hopefully the northern Kentucky area,” Cobbs said.

Many NKU fans are torn about being matched up against the University of Kentucky because many Norse fans also follow the Wildcats.

Count Cobbs as one who is thrilled to see the matchup and believes that it will be beneficial for NKU.

“I don’t think the draw could have gone much better for NKU as whole for the university,” Cobbs said. “To get a team that is the home team in your state, it’s the flagship state institution, to be able to play against them and get that type of audience in the state, I think it’s going to get NKU on more people radar, even more than it already is.”

NKU and UK are scheduled to tip off at approximately 9:40pm on Friday night in Indianapolis.

Political producer Madeline Janicki contributed to this report.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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