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Post What did the Final Four mean to George Mason?

Wednesday July 5, 2006

I pointed to an interesting piece about recruiting by Prof. Todd Zywicki of George Mason University earlier this year during their run to the Final Four. Now he discusses an article in Sports Illustrated showing what a single trip to the Final Four can mean to a school. For example,

  • Student inquiries and tour sizes have tripled.
  • In March (2006) the campus bookstore sold more than $800,000 worth of George Mason clothing, compared with $625,000 worth in all of 2004-05.
  • George Mason hopes to increase fund-raising for the coming year by 25%, to $25 million.
  • The school projects a 2% increase in the number of applicants who say yes to an acceptance letter (and) an uptick of 10 points in the students’ average SAT score.

That’s just the beginnings of the impact of a single Final Four on the University itself. I haven’t even mentioned the effects on the athletics side – recruiting, ticket sales, donations, etc. George Mason’s established academic reputation can’t touch the exposure (estimated at $50+ million worth of PR) of a Final Four run.

At a major flagship state university, we don’t often pause to consider how much the presence of a strong athletics program means to the school. Georgia is Georgia, Alabama is Alabama, and a Southern flagship university is supposed to have a large athletics program and be a household name. A lot of private schools are also established and don’t need the publicity. Yale football was much better in 1929 than it is now, but that probably doesn’t affect the quality of their applicants much. MIT’s target student might not be picking schools based on the BCS standings.

For the right kind of university though, success on the playing field can be a big shot in the arm to the school and the community. Congrats to George Mason for recognizing that and capitalizing on it.

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