Friday, 2:30 p.m. – Thursday's win was big for ODU, in a lot of ways. By Brendan O'Hallarn
It's been said that athletics is the "front porch" of your university. If that's the case, Old Dominion's front porch is presently festooned with those really cool copper lamps that everyone has down here, along with streamers, balloons, and a big horn announcing: "Hey, look at us!"
It's safe to say that winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, if you're a school like Old Dominion University, has some residual benefits. And they aren't limited to the basketball team.
I spread out half a dozen national newspapers as I ate breakfast. There's ODU guard Darius James fighting for a loose ball in USA Today. The Ted Heads are in their painted-up glory on a section front of the Wall Street Journal. Every national paper and broadcast outlet has mentioned ODU's upset over Notre Dame.
ODU President John R. Broderick said he received emails and texts from colleagues in higher education from across the country after the big win, some who he hadn't spoken to in years.
"I probably, after that game got about 50 text messages," Broderick said. "And these would be people from all over the country, who said they saw the game and saw the score."
Broderick said in the 1980s, Boston College experienced what was known as the "Flutie Factor," where the publicity received by Heisman-trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie boosted student applications, donations and interest in the school across the board.
"I think the years that Doug Flutie was there it translated to a significant increase in applications from students who wanted to go there. It's just the elevating of the pride piece," Broderick said.
And ODU's exposure through sports is overwhelmingly positive, helped by the fact that ODU sports teams recruit good kids, who work hard in the classroom as well as their sport and stay out of trouble, Broderick said.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Debbie White said it's not like ODU's athletic department is suddenly rich with a single tournament win. However, White said the school saw how the increased exposure with the football team last fall led to more revenue in terms of sponsorships and alumni donations.
"When a team wins a round in the NCAA Tournament, those things can go up exponentially," she said. Also, it's advertising you can't afford to buy. You have to say, Old Dominion Athletics has had a heck of a year. And this is just the cherry on the sundae right now."
Alonzo Brandon is ODU's Vice President for Development and Alumni. He pulled out his phone to show me a picture of a local guy's Old Dominion ID card from years ago. He was so excited for our team's win over Notre Dame that he tracked down the team and showed off his bona fides as an ODU alum.
Development offices will use things like athletic success as a fund-raising tool. But Brandon said the real payoff doesn't come in immediate dollars.
"It's connecting back to the university. Reaching out to our alumni, so they can feel like they're a part of this," Brandon said. "Whether by helping out with the Athletic program, identifying recruits, and it's not just Athletics, it's academically, too.
"It's marketing your whole school. You can't put a value on faces, and pictures in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and ESPN."
Associate Head Coach Jim Corrigan is in charge of recruiting for the Monarchs. He said a win like yesterday's will help with the kids they've already made contact with, "but it's not like we're suddenly competing with the Dukes and North Carolinas of the world."
However, it certainly couldn't hurt to send a text message like "Did you see the game?" to prospective future Monarchs.
"It's probably made people sit up and take notice a little bit more. They might be a little bit more receptive than they were a week ago," Corrigan said.
"And the recruits we signed in November are excited, and excited to be a part of our program. It's a very, very exciting thing, but I think what's helped our program more than anything is we've had a sustained level of success."
Even teams that spend all season trying to beat our brains in are rooting for us now. Colonial Athletic Association conference commissioner Tom Yeager said a win in the NCAA Tournament is worth about $1.3 million for the conference over six years, split among the 12 CAA teams. "That's why, when you miss a shot at the end that would have won it, you'll see a conference commissioner do this," Yeager said, pantomiming banging his head on the table.
But aside from the raw dollars, wins matter for conferences like the CAA. "One of the biggest things about George Mason's run to the Final Four (in 2006) was it boosted the credibility of the entire conference," Yeager said. "A lot of people on the East Coast think college basketball starts and ends at the ACC and Big East. So there are many more intangibles of something like this, which are more beneficial than anything financial."
All year, I've chatted with Aseem Rastogi, student leader of the ODU spirit group the Monarch Maniacs. He mentioned repeatedly how it's sometimes hard to get busy students to stop and pay attention to any of the ODU teams, even our men's and women's basketball teams. That problem doesn't exist this week.
"Seeing hundreds of people flock to Webb Center and watch this game, living and dying with every possession, it was unlike anything I've ever seen here," Rastogi said. "Just looking around the room yesterday, there were people from all walks of life coming together for those two and a half hours to support the Monarchs. It is something that has been a long time coming, and the more we win the better it will get. We are doing big things it truly is our time."
In fact, Rastogi and the Maniacs predicted this, in a way. The Maniacs had some rubber bracelets, like the "Livestrong" logo that Lance Armstrong wears. He gave them out to the guys on the team at the first practice of the year.
The bracelets say two words: "Our Time."
Brendan O'Hallarn works in public relations for Old Dominion University
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