Coastal Carolina University’s men’s basketball team entered the second round of the NCAA tournament two weeks ago as an unfamiliar, No. 16 seed but had made a name for itself by the end of the game.
Making their first appearance in the tournament in 21 years, the Chanticleers lost 70-59 against No. 1 seed Virginia, but their unexpected lead at halftime generated more excitement from the national audience. The extra publicity gave instant name recognition to the program and a boost to CCU’s athletic program, officials say, while other benefits to the university are more difficult to determine.
“I think we’re probably not at a point of having measurable data on admissions or how it might impact enrollment, but from our perspective, we saw a significant increase in our athletic website traffic,” said Matt Hogue, interim director of athletics. “That spike was directly from the game.”
Hogue likened the NCAA tournament to the Super Bowl, as far as having such a large number of people tuned in to an event at a distinct time, and said the exposure helps with the branding of the institution and offers a tangible impact to recruiting in general. People were looking for more in-depth information about the team, as well as about other CCU sports on the national scale, he said.
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“The tournament is a significant bragging point,” Hogue said. “Where I think it helps the most is that white hot intensity you get in terms of exposure. It makes it easier for a coach to make a phone call because you’ve become more of a household name.”
The tournament appearance occurred at one of the busiest times on campus, making it difficult to separate the basketball team’s success from normal traffic as the source of attention being given to the university.
Business was brisk in the Chanticleer Store in the HTC Center once the NCAA tournament shirts arrived, said manager Jim Rebeschke. There are only a few left, but it’s hard to say that any overall spike in business was due to basketball fever, he said.
“We were really happy with what we did with the shirts, and people picked up other items, but we get a lot of tourists about now, and that coincided with the tournament,” Rebeschke said.
Greg Thornburg, CCU’s vice president of enrollment services, agreed that it would be difficult to measure any impact on enrollment from the team’s success, especially at this time of year.
“The last week of March, first two weeks of April are our busiest times of the year for visitors, and most of those are families here on spring break that make a visit to Coastal part of their vacation,” Thornburg said.
Thornburg said the university has three Saturday programs this month for prospective students, with about 1,000 people expected to attend April 12 alone.
“We’ll have 3,000 visitors in the next two weeks, so we would not be able to say any of that was related to the basketball tournament,” Thornburg said. “It’s just an incredible time of year for us.”