The winning’s only beginning for Villanova

Monday, April 11, 2016

By Susan Snyder

The Philadelphia Inquirer


At Villanova University, Joseph A. Borillo was taking the congratulatory calls in succession on Tuesday, the day after the men’s basketball team had been crowned national champion. Wells Fargo. Coca-Cola. Bimbo Bakeries.

They’re all corporate partners of Villanova, and they couldn’t be happier with the Wildcats’ win, a thriller that came at the buzzer as Kris Jenkins sank that now famous three-pointer.

“It’s amazing the difference one shot makes,” said Borillo, Villanova’s senior director of corporate and foundation relations. “I expect that in the coming months we’ll see increased activity with our current sponsors as well as interest from new corporations that want to be associated with Villanova.”

Corporate sponsors do everything from providing 5,000 muffins to students during a day of community service to making donations. Coca-Cola, Borillo said, plans to unveil a commemorative can emblazoned with the Wildcats’ logo in honor of the championship season.

The winning’s just beginning for Villanova, a Catholic university on the Main Line that enrolls about 10,000 students, 6,300 of them undergraduates.

A national basketball championship can bring in more applications, higher-quality students, more donations, and boost corporate sponsorships, licensing, and athletic ticket sales, studies have shown.

“It acts as a de facto advertising campaign that lasts for about two years,” said Kristi Dosh, a sports business analyst based in Florida, who has studied the effects of national championships. “The university and the athletic department have about two years to make the most out of this.”

Villanova estimated it received at least $6 million — and perhaps far more — worth of free publicity when the team made it to the Final Four in 2009. Now, with a win, “it’s exponential,” said Ann Diebold, its vice president of university communications. “Every time, there’s more.”

One of the most immediate measures of the impact for Villanova could come May 1, the deadline for admitted students to declare whether they will enroll. In 1985, when Villanova last won the national championship, 119 more admitted students enrolled than the previous year.

And that was before social media.

This time, the university has been inundating the Facebook page for its admitted students with news about the basketball team’s success.

“We have been sharing this journey with those students while they are in this decision- making process . . . so they can feel a part of it,” said Liz Kennedy Walsh, associate vice president for university communications.

Only problem is that if many more admitted students than expected choose Villanova, university officials are unsure where they will put them.

But Michael Gaynor, director of university admission, said Villanova will accommodate all who accept, though it may mean taking fewer students from the wait list.

The university, where tuition, fees, and room and board topped $62,000 this year, admitted 42 percent of applicants this spring. Villanova is largely white and Catholic. Three- fourths of undergraduates are white, and 72 percent of those who reported a religious preference said they were Catholic.

The impact on Villanova’s applications next year could be even greater. It could be harder to get in.

A 2009 study by economists Devin and Jaren Pope found that success on the court increases applications from 2 to 8 percent for the top 16 basketball schools, and that increases are two to four times greater for private schools than public ones.

“Schools appear to exploit these increases in applications by improving both the number and the quality of incoming students,” the study said.

Villanova already draws strong students. Most freshmen from fall 2015 had GPAs that exceeded 3.76, and the average SAT (verbal and math) score was 1316, the highest in the university’s history.

And there is no predicting the influence of that final Jenkins shot.

Consider what happened to Boston College in 1984. After Doug Flutie’s last- second Hail Mary pass led the college football team to victory over the University of Miami, the school surged in popularity. Over the next two years, applications increased about 30 percent. It became known as “the Flutie Effect,” though some remain skeptical of the gridiron connection.

Even without a basketball crown, applications to Villanova had been rising, , up 16 percent for fall 2016.

Fund-raising at universities with successful teams also tends to improve, according to a 2012 study by Michael L. Anderson, assistant professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley too.

Game revenue and ticket sales can jump,

That’s what Dosh found at the University of Florida after the men’s basketball team won the national title in 2006 and again in 2007.

Mark Jackson, Villanova’s athletic director, said he expects “a more than moderate increase” in licensing revenue, considering swift bookstore sales of Villanova merchandise. He also cited widespread exposure through social media. The basketball team’s followers on Twitter rose from 14,000 before the Big East conference tournament to more than 83,000 on Wednesday.

“We’re hoping to get to 100,000 by the parade on Friday,” he said.

Villanova administrators are planning to capitalize on the team’s success. They are putting together a publication to share with alumni and will update their admissions materials, Walsh said.

But the biggest advantage came naturally.

“A lot of people know our name now,” Walsh said.

They connect that name with a team of dedicated, selfless players, even down to the last shot, when senior Ryan Arcidiacono shared the ball with Jenkins for the win, she said.

“This team tells our story,” she said. “The coverage is priceless.”

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