MAAC title impact on success

After falling to the defending NCAA tournament champion Louisville, 71-64, last week. Manhattan College still managed to come out with a victory.

MC reached the tournament national stage for the first time in 10 years – last appeared in 2004. Meaning it found a place to show itself off to the masses like never before.

“What’s particularly great about this team and this year is that the team itself are such great representatives of Manhattan College,” Manhattan College President Brennan O’Donnell said. “The brand of basketball that they play is hard-working, tough-nose basketball. These guys don’t back down from anybody. The brand of Manhattan basketball really matches the brand of the institution, and we’re proud of that.”

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference that Manhattan College belongs to will be awarded prize money of about $1.5 million for qualifying for the tournament, and was eligible for additional compensation for each win after that.

This compensation is part of an NCAA initiative called the basketball fund. The fund includes just under $200 million that is split and paid to 31 conferences for successful participation in the national championship tournament.

“The fund rewards long-term performance in the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship,” according to the NCAA website.

The money is split up into compensation units projected to be worth $259,379 each in 2014, according to an NCAA document titled “2012 Distribution of Division I Men’s Basketball-Related Moneys According to Number of Units by Conference.” Every conference earns a single unit for sending a team to the tournament, and each additional win earns the conference another unit.

The units are paid out over a six year period so that a conference that earns one unit will receive revenue from the basketball fund in the amount of $259,379 each year for six years.

The athletics department could not be reached in time to comment.

But some of the rewards of making it to the national tournament simply cannot be bought.

The national publicity and media coverage the college has received in the week leading up to the tournament, capped by an impressive game against Louisville, don’t come at a price.

“Alumni love to have that kind of exposure for their team. It makes them proud just like it makes current students proud,” O’Donnell said. “And anytime you have a situation where people are sitting up and paying attention to you and it brings their alma mater to the front of their inteests that’s always a good thing.”

Manhattan’s increased visibility can have real ramifications on the future of admissions and athletics at the college.

“It’s hard to quantify, and you’ll read about this all the time, there’s a lot of research done on the effects of NCAA appearances on recruitment and enrollment in students,” O’Donnell said. “And in my mind you get their attention about the stuff that’s going on the basketball court but while you have their attention you’re able to tell them a lot of other good things that’s going on at your school make you want to be a part of their project.”

The Office of Admissions also anticipates in an increase in traffic to the Manhattan College website because of this increased public profile.

“By securing the title of the 2014 MAAC Champions and earning a spot in the Big Dance, the team has helped Manhattan College gain greater public exposure,” Gianna Voccola, associate director of admissions and financial aid, wrote in an email. “This, in turn, may draw more interest among prospective students.”

Not only the success of the team, but the conversation before, during and after the team’s appearance in the tournament built up the name of the school in local and national media.

“The overwhelming amount of positive coverage and conversation from radio, print, online and social media clearly raises the profile of Manhattan both locally and nationally,” Lydia Gray, executive director of marketing and communication, wrote in an email. “As new and old audiences are impacted by this messaging, they tend to want more information and will go to the College’s web site and social channels.”

On a small campus, the team’s raised national profile can also elevate the student experience.

“It’s a rallying point for school spirit,” O’Donnell said.  He noted the games against Iona College and Canisius as the most atmospheric for a student to have pride in his her or college.

“Overall, it has allowed us to share our institutional pride, whether student, alum, faculty or staff member,” Gray wrote in the same email.

This is the first time Manhattan has received this kind of media attention since the last time the team competed in the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament. The school was the subject of extensive local and national media coverage after the Jaspers upset the Florida Gators and advanced to the second round.

“But with the season we’re having, more people are interested in us. It goes with the territory,” Gonzalez told the New York Daily News in 2004.

After a few years of consistent success of the basketball program under Gonzalez, the team earned a name for themselves and for Manhattan. The Jaspers and Gonzalez received consistent coverage from the New York Times and the New York Daily News as America fell in love with New York’s team.

“We’re the kings of New York,” player Luis Flores told a packed locker room and the New York Daily News in 2004. “We’ve been the best team in the city for the past few years and we’re a team to be reckoned with.”

“So when you can get it you take it [media attention] and you try to take the spotlight that’s shining on you and use some of that spotlight to tell the world that you’re good in a lot more than just basketball,” O’Donnell said.