March Madness is here! For the next few weeks, college basketball will be at the center of the sporting world. While many expect the usual teams like Duke, Kentucky or Kansas to end up winning the whole thing, it is the small Cinderella teams that will steal hearts this spring.
What makes the NCAA Basketball tournament so exciting is that any team has that one opportunity when they can play like champions. Last year the 15 seed Middle Tennessee State defeated the National Player of the Year Denzel Valentine and number 2 seeded Michigan State. Over the last 20 games, 12 seeds have gone 10-10 against 5 seeds in the first round. The great upset is what warms hearts, but it does even more for the team that pulls off the upset.
For the regular giants of college athletics, money is thrown around like professional sporting leagues. The 14 team Big 10 Conference’s next TV deal is gong to be worth approximately $2.64 billion according to the Indianapolis Star. Money is not a problem at big time colleges. However the small ones have to earn theirs.
This year Gonzaga is the number 1 seed in the West Bracket of the NCAA Tournament. Many have heard about Gonzaga’s success as a basketball power but that was not always the case. In 1999, the 10th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs made a Cinderella run of three NCAA tournament victories to advance to the Elite 8. The small Jesuit school in Spokane Washington has been in every NCAA Tournament since.
A small school’s success athletically on a national stage can change their identity.
The freshman enrollment numbers at Gonzaga in 1997 were 569. In 2001 they were at a record 979. Gonzaga was able to raise $23 million in donations to build their new basketball arena in 2004 according to Ron Lieber of the Wall Street Journal.
Gonzaga is not the only school that has risen above thanks to national exposure from sports. In 1984, Boston College Quarterback Doug Flutie defeated the Miami Hurricanes on a last second Hail Mary pass. This famous win helped Flutie win the Heisman trophy, which goes to the Most Outstanding Player in College Football. In the two years after that season, the number of applications received by Boston College rose by 25%. The phenomena of a schools rise in national prominence and prestige has been coined “The Flutie Effect.”
The “Flutie Effect” continues to hold its own with recent examples from schools such as George Mason, Appalachian State, Boise State, Northern Iowa, Butler, Auburn, Oregon, Baylor, Virginia Commonwealth, Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast, and Texas A&M. All of these schools have seen recent success in the NCAA tournament or in college football and the results have been higher application numbers.
So while you are enjoying the great games that are available in the NCAA Tournament, try to have en even bigger appreciation for the small schools. A win for Kansas and Duke in the first round is expected, but when 15 seed Middle Tennessee State beats Michigan State, the impact is incredible. In fact Middle Tennessee did it again as a 12 seed this year by defeating 5 seed Minnesota.
Notre Dame de Namur is still a division 2 school. Creating national prestige through athletics is far from conceivable at this point. However successful athletics programs can still bring pride to our local community and help create an exciting atmosphere on campus.
“There is no doubt that creating a greater buzz around our sports programs could could really create a buzz around NDNU’s campus” said senior Luis Ortiz.