Loyola Ramblers: What’s Next After Team’s Final Four Run
Loyola University Chicago’s Cinderella story may not have ended with the ultimate glass slipper prize of a NCAA men’s basketball championship trophy, but the Ramblers on-court successes nonetheless come with consolation prizes that at least one university administrator says are priceless.
“This positive attention and being able to tell this really great story about what makes Loyola special and unique on a national platform has just been priceless. Very much so,” said Damon Cates, senior vice president of advancement.
Some gains are easily measurable, however. Bloomberg reports that Loyola earned its Missouri Valley Conference $8.5 million in what’s tantamount to prize money.
And Cates says Loyola is considering doing a study that would put a price tag on the benefits of a tournament run; schools like George Mason, Butler and the University of Connecticut have reportedly done studies that peg the figure in the hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars, in additional alumni donations, public funding and media exposure – and they didn’t have a media darling like team chaplain Sister Jean.
(According to Loyola, the Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum says the Sister Jean bobblehead is its all-time best-seller; 29 licensees have requested a contract with Loyola since March 1, and places that never before stocked Loyola merchandise, including local Target, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods stores, now do. The university has gained more than 19,000 new followers on social media since March 10, and scored more than 9 million “impressions” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
“The exposure that we got will just help with that name recognition for people,” said assistant athletic director for communications Bill Behrns. “There being a few different Loyolas in the country, sometimes we often get confused with Loyola Maryland, there’s a Loyola Marymount, there’s a Loyola in New Orleans.”
Behrns says while Loyola still may not have the TV contracts and facilities of Big Ten and other Power Five conference teams, coaches can use the Ramblers’ journey to show would-be recruits it’s possible to excel, even to qualify for the Final Four, at a mid-sized program.
“By being more of that small fish in a big pond now they can be a bigger fish in smaller pond and really succeed,” Behrns said. “Clayton Custer is one guy that comes to mind. He was player of the year in our conference, didn’t get a lot of playing time when he was at Iowa State. Came here and certainly had an unbelievable amount of success.”
Cates says Villanova, which has lived the Cinderella tale, told Loyola to expect a surge in applications (which could lead to more selective, or increased enrollment, and therefore tuition dollars).
He’s working to harness the energy and exposure, to leverage the momentum into sponsorships, contributions, alumni engagement, even internship opportunities for students.
Those who just want to celebrate will have an opportunity later this week during a Loyola rally (as of Monday evening no date had been set for the event).
While some of Loyola’s star players will graduate next month (Loyola likewise celebrates its 99-percent student athlete five-year graduation rate), others will return to the court. Custer, a guard, is again on the roster.
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