Thursday, April 23, 2009

AU Basketball Could Affect Admissions


            American University has gained extra attention the last two years because its men’s basketball team has made the NCAA Tournament.  American is hoping that it can lead to more applicants.

            American is hoping to capitalize on one of the biggest events on college campuses, even a small one like AU: sports.  Whether it is basketball, football, baseball or hockey, athletics are one of the main sources of pride on college campuses.  Looking around at the banners put up all across the American University campus, excitement was in the air prior to the Eagles’ first round departure from the NCAA Tournament.  The buzz felt in the D.C. area would intrigue any potential future student at American. 

            “I was excited to come to a school that had just played in the NCAA Tournament.  It was really unexpected too, which made it even nicer,” said Graham Brookie, 19, a freshman at AU.  “I think more people will apply after back to back Tourney Appearances.  Sports are a huge deal in college.”

            How should American use the NCAA Tournament to the benefit?  In 2006, another local school, George Mason, made a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  According to the Pittsburgh Gazette, when George Mason made an astonishing run to the “Final Four”, the school sent emails to admitted students informing them of the team’s success and where they could watch games with other George Mason fans.  The school also sent alumni to meet with applicants about the team.

            There is just one problem.  The students you want may not be the ones applying.  According to the article, the number of applicants increases shortly after sporting events that get a lot of national attention, but the quality of students does not necessarily change.  Still, according to an article from the La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin, the number of applicants at George Mason increased by 22 percent the year after their “Final Four” run.

            Now, AU will obviously not see a spike like that next year because unlike George Mason, the Eagles lost early on in the tournament and did not get the media that “Final Four” teams do. But even the littlest national exposure should help.  In a study done by the Southern Economic Journal, every team that makes the NCAA Tournament should expect at least a one percent increase in applications for the following year.

            “When I started here, we weren’t really known much for our basketball team,” said Frane Markusovic, 23, a senior and backup center for the Eagles.  “Now leaving, I feel like people are a lot more excited about the basketball program.”  Maybe this excitement can turn a campus that once put little thought into athletics into a rowdy, in your face sports program that instills fear into opponents.

            If the Eagles were to ever win a men’s basketball national championship, it would be a big deal for the people in the admissions office.  According to a report done by Research in Higher Education, increase in applications in schools that win national championships is more than a one year occurrence.  In other words, students will still apply a few years after winning the national championship.  However, the study also found that there is an even bigger boost in applications after winning the football national championship.  Maybe AU should get that team started again.  The school used to have a football team, but decided to get rid of it.  American University students can now be seen with tee shirts that say “American University Football” on the front and “Still Undefeated” on the back.

            The study also shows that successful sports programs make younger people pay attention to higher education at an earlier age.  If AU could become a powerhouse in college basketball, it would give them notoriety with kids years away from applying to colleges.

            “It was exciting to see a school that I was applying to on national television.  I didn’t expect them to make a big run in the tournament, but they came close against a school that was supposed to embarrass them,” said Ashley Bollech, 18, an applicant to AU for the fall 2009 school year.  “It gave me something to look forward to…should I get in.” 

            The Eagles were expected by many to be run out of the gym when they played Villanova against a basically home crowd in Philadelphia.  The AU team was up by 10 at halftime of the first round matchup.  However, the team could not hold the lead an ended up losing the game 80-67.  But even coming close to beating a high seeded team in the big dance gains the school national exposure.

            Nonetheless, the admissions department at AU has not used the basketball team to sell the school to future students.  “We have not really used the basketball team’s success in terms of recruiting new students,” said Greg Grauman, American’s director of admissions.  According to Grauman, the team has not had enough national success to have the NCAA Tournament used as a big lure for high school students applying to the university.

            Garrison Carr, 23, the teams’ star shooting guard, hopes he can leave his mark on the university.  He leaves as a top-five scorer all-time at American University.  However, Carr wants to be known for more than just a few flashy statistics.  “I hope I’ve made future students want to come to AU,” said Carr

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