Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Impact of Making the NCAA Tournament

College athletics is big business. Football and both men’s and women’s basketball bring in money for the NCAA, athletic conferences, and schools year after year with their lucrative broadcast contracts.  Now that it is time for NCAA March Madness, schools will be looking to cash in on their opportunities.  Of course just making the tournament can benefit a school, but how much does the Cinderella team making a deep run in the tournament really benefit financially?
Cornell Athletics saw a financial impact after their 2010 Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA tournament, citing three areas of increase.  The first was in alumni donations and gifts.  After setting a record for donations to the athletic department in 2009, the Big Red beat that record in 2010.  The second area of increase was in ticket sales.  More students and more college basketball fans in general were attending Cornell basketball games in 2010 because they were seen as a legitimate contender.  The final area that felt the financial impact of the 2010 NCAA tournament appearance was merchandise (  The better the team performed, the more people wanted to be associated with the Cornell Big Red athletic brand.  Cornell is no longer seen as solely an academic Ivy League school, it is now seen also as a contender in almost all Ivy League sports.
Who could forget about little-known George Mason University and their 2006 Final Four run?  Sure the run was magical, but how did it benefit the school as a whole?  The year after their Final Four appearance, the George Mason Patriots saw a 20% increase in applications and the number of prospective student campus tours has almost tripled.  The school also recorded increases in alumni relations.  Registered alumni increased by over 50% and a 25% increase in active alumni.  Perhaps the biggest impact was on fundraising.  George Mason received almost $4 million more in gifts in 2007 and donations specifically for the athletic department went up 25% (  George Mason is the modern day Cinderella story and clear proof that a magical Final Four run in the NCAA tournament can produce big money for the school in general and not just the athletic department. 
With the tournament field set for the 2011 NCAA tournament and games set to kick off on Tuesday, there looks to be a few promising underdog teams.  It will be interesting to see if a team can make a Cornell or George Mason type run and feel the same kind of school-wide financial impact.
-Written by Kevin Rossi

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