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Value of George Mason Final Four Run:

In thought this was pretty interesting--from an article on SI.com (seems to be subscriber only):

George Mason would have had to spend at least $50 million for a public-relations campaign that gave it the exposure it received during the tournament. That's the conservative estimate of C. Scott Bozman, an associate professor of business marketing at Gonzaga, who studied the benefits of hoops success at his own school. Robert Baker, a George Mason associate professor who will be undertaking a similar analysis this summer, says, "We should exceed that amount if we're thorough [in tracking every mention]."

The publicity has already shown returns. Student inquiries and tour sizes have tripled, and merchandise sales have skyrocketed. In March the campus bookstore sold more than $800,000 worth of George Mason clothing, compared with $625,000 worth in all of 2004-05.

The surge in Mason pride is expected to boost alumni donations as well. During the tournament more than 1,000 alums registered on the school's website, increasing the size of the database by 10%. Judith Jobbitt, the school's vice president for alumni affairs, says George Mason hopes to increase fund-raising for the coming year by 25%, to $25 million.

The admissions office was particularly aggressive in capitalizing on Mason mania. It sent a torrent of e-mails to students who had applied to the school, using the basketball news as an entree to tout the university's academic virtues. The school projects a 2% increase in the number of applicants who say yes to an acceptance letter. Flagel also expects to see an uptick of 10 points in the students' average SAT score.

Update:

Also, George Mason's basketball team and Jim Larranaga have been nominated for ESPY awards this year. Vote here. Oy, how do I choose between Larranaga and Bill Cowher for Coach of the Year?

The Drill SGT (mail):
While all those stats are positive, as a business person, You'd need a heck of a lot bigger increase in market share or profits to balance a $50 million dollar advertising expenditure that effectively (before taxes) comes from gross margin.
7.3.2006 12:11pm
Paul Johnson (mail):
It's been quite a ride for GMU -- back in the day, it was simply a poor-cousin branch of the University of Virginia, a commuter school in the DC suburbs. Now it's an excellent national university in its own right, quite apart from its basketball program. It's been nice to watch.
7.3.2006 12:21pm
Joel B. (mail):
Now if only George Mason had fielded a World Cup team! Then there would be whirled peas, and publicity.
7.3.2006 1:14pm
xx:
"Oy, how do I choose between Larranaga and Bill Cowher for Coach of the Year?"

By remembering how many times they lost in the AFC title game when Cowher had the most talented team in the AFC?
7.3.2006 1:52pm
Anonymous Jim:
I'll see your "oy" and raise you a "double yoi"
7.3.2006 2:03pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Does this mean the quality of basketball teams is going to be included in future US News &World Report rankings of law schools?
7.3.2006 2:51pm
Cinci fan:
"Oy, how do I choose between Larranaga and Bill Cowher for Coach of the Year?"

By realizing they would have lost in the first round of the playoffs if they hadn't torn Carson Palmer's ACL. :)

(Not saying it was a dirty hit. But if it hadn't happened, that would have been a completely different game).
7.3.2006 2:55pm
xx:
Cinci was the worst team the Steelers played in the playoffs.
7.3.2006 3:30pm
Medis:
I would assume the marginal benefit to non-Cinderella teams would be a lot less. Which suggests to me that on average, the more Cinderellas, the more benefit for colleges and universities is created by the tournament. Among other things, that might represent a virtue of the one-and-done format. And we might also wonder if the more "mid-major" teams in the tournament, the better, insofar as it would increase this average benefit.
7.3.2006 6:45pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
A couple of observations.

First, when I was a kid, before I knew very much about the academic reputations of colleges, the first things I learned about them were their basketball and football programs. Thus, I didn't know that much about Northwestern (which is, of course, a great school) because their teams were no good, but I knew quite a bit about Texas and USC and Penn State. I don't doubt that some people end up attending colleges that they rooted for as a kid, or simply knew as a result of their athletic programs. The athletic programs are part of the "brand".

Second, athletic programs also bring in donations by keeping alumni interested. If you are Harvard, you have so many rich alumni and your academics are so superior that you have no problem attracting donations. But if you are Florida State, you don't have those advantages. But you do have the football team, which the alumni supports and wants to do well and identifies with. And that means more money donated to the university proper as well.

Thus, you can certainly be a great school without having great athletic programs. But having great athletic programs can improve a school that is striving to get better, by bringing in more students and more money.
7.3.2006 7:32pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Second, athletic programs also bring in donations by keeping alumni interested.
The only research on the subject that I am aware of shows the opposite.

Thus, you can certainly be a great school without having great athletic programs. But having great athletic programs can improve a school that is striving to get better, by bringing in more students and more money.
Even assuming that having great athletic programs actually brings in more money -- something that's seriously doubtful -- that's only "improving a school" if (a) "more money" is the definition of "improvement" and (b) the money that it brings in is greater than the money that needs to be spent in order to "have a great athletic program." Again, the only research I am aware of shows that (b) is not the case; virtually all schools lose money on their athletic programs. (In particular, note that athletics are zero-sum. By definition, only a few schools can "have great athletic programs.")

(I should note that by far the worst offender in these areas is football, which is hugely more expensive than any other sport.)

And "more students" is also zero-sum, for all practical purposes. It's pretty unlikely you're going to attract people who would otherwise not attend college (the athletes themselves excepted) with an athletic program (and query whether you would want such people, in any case); all you're doing is taking them from other schools.

(Note that neither the Gonzaga professor nor any of the GMU people quoted, at least in the excerpt quoted, argues that the school is actually in the black on its athletic programs. They merely argue that it's an effective form of advertising.)
7.3.2006 9:11pm
David (mail):
i attended a summer internship at gmu a couple of years ago for, what else, economics, and was very impressed at the calibre of the faculity given the the lack of awareness this institution has among the general public. every instructor was brilliant and articulate and certainly up to the level of some of the big name schools. my fear is that now that the college has been given so much publicity,is that some of the profs will be wooed away to more prestigous but less ideologically pure institutions.
7.3.2006 9:19pm
arthur (mail):
This would be a good quiz in a GMU economics course. What is the actual value of the final 4 appearance? (a) $50 million someone would allegedly have to spend to get tham much publicity. (b) the $175,000 in marginal t-shirt sales. (c) the $5 million increase in alumni giving someone "hopes" will follow.

I vote for (b), or perhaps (c) with an enormmous uncertainty discouns. Either would be well below the marginal costs incured.
7.3.2006 11:38pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Oy, how do I choose between Larranaga and Bill Cowher for Coach of the Year?

Simple: Bill Cowher won it all, so he gets the nod.
7.4.2006 12:18am
frankcross (mail):
Drew Nieporent is right on the research, I think, but that research is often misinterpreted.

If colleges were economically efficient, they would be devoting the optimal resources to athletics. If each college were in fact doing so, one would seen no relationship between athletics and contributions. Not because there is in fact no such association, but because each is optimizing the association.
7.4.2006 12:25am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Frank,

Drew's my cousin.
7.4.2006 1:38am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Before I knew George Mason had a basketball team, I knew it was ornamented by Harold Morowitz.

I went to a Cow College with bigtime sports teams, known at large for game-fixing, criminal charges against scholarship athletes, and internally for giving diplomas to jocks who never went to class. I don't think you can put a dollar value on that.
7.4.2006 2:33pm
cxmmc (mail):
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7.5.2006 4:45am
Avrum (mail):
A university should be in the business of scholarship. I can't see how the the morons who play basketball, and even the dollars and publicity that follow them, can advance the cause of knowledge. In a university any other cause is superfluous.
7.5.2006 4:01pm