CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas A&M Corpus Christi men’s basketball team plays Tuesday night in the play-in round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Just playing in the tournament gives the university national attention.
“This morning I was getting texts from people all around the country, saying, ‘hey, I think your school was just mentioned on Good Morning America,’” said TAMU-CC president and CEO Kelly Miller. “So, people are seeing about the university, then they’re saying, ‘wait, an island, what is this place?’ and then they research us a little bit, they see these great academic programs, they see all the wonderful things in Corpus Christi, and it really helps drive enrollment increases, which is really, very exciting.”
Millions watch the ‘March Madness’ games, and Miller said being the first game of the tournament makes people focus on the team, and their success brings attention to not just the athletics.
“It’s exciting, certainly from that recruitment standpoint of student-athletes, of students in general, but also really to lift up the entire community, and give another exciting thing that people can do with their time when they want to be entertained,” she said.
The national attention is invaluable to the university, providing incomparable exposure across the country.
“We could never afford to buy this kind of national attention. Our commercials will be played, we’re being promoted everywhere,” Miller said. “It is an opportunity to really promote the university in a very different way than we normally would.”
The Islanders play Texas Southern University in the play-in game and the winner will be a 16-seed in the tournament, set to play Kansas University on Thursday.
A successful game could make more people take notice of the team and the university. Perhaps the best example of what a tournament run can do for a school is shown by the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
In 2018, the UMBC men’s basketball team became the first 16-seed in tournament history to defeat a one-seed, upsetting Virginia 74-54.
The win made the school an overnight sensation.
“The demand was so much, we had to call out to the campus for volunteers, for people to come to the bookstore to help meet the demand, because we could not just simply fulfill all the requests for people wanting to purchase UMBC gear,” said Dale Bittinger, the Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions at UMBC.
According to Bittinger, the UMBC Athletics Twitter account went from 5,400 followers, to more than 111,000 the day of the game, and remains at 73,000 today.
Bittinger also said admissions events in the months following the game had increases of 15-27 percent, and applications to the university increased 10 percent the following year.
“I heard price tags of upwards of $50 million in marketing revenue,” he said. “The New York Times wrote a story about UMBC, and it was titled, ‘Cinderella, not just in basketball, but also academics.’ You can’t get the press for that.”
Bittinger said the win exposed not only the basketball team, but everything the school has to offer.
“It puts the spotlight on the campus, and gets people to look at it in ways they probably never would have before,” he said.
Four years later, the historic win still brings attention to the UMBC program.
“Every year at tournament time, we still get press about this, even though it’s been a number of years since we’ve won it,” Bittinger said.
Tuesday’s game will be played in Dayton, Ohio, starting at 5:40 p.m. It can be watched on TruTV, or on NCAA.com