Winning the NCAA college-basketball championship is Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) singular goal, but for the athletic department, the underdog team’s win adds up in other ways—such as money and exposure.
- Before this season, FAU had only appeared in one NCAA tournament, which they lost in the first round in 2002, Forbes reports.
- In this year’s tournament, the Owls have won four games, bringing in monetary rewards for the university and the athletic department. Each game equals an NCAA “unit.” In 2021, each unit was worth $337,000 each year over a six-year period.
- Winning teams are encouraged to distribute their winnings to member schools, but smaller leagues like often use the funds to keep their operations up and running.
- In addition to monetary prizes, FAU’s wins bring an invaluable benefit to the school—a growing interest from fans and potential students.
Why it’s news
For many, winning the March Madness tournament may seem to center around bragging rights, but to a school like FAU, winning means so much more. Like other schools in the tournament, FAU received 1,000 tickets for their East Region games. Over 7,000 fans requested tickets, Forbes reports.
FAU’s athletics director Brian White says that the increased interest has boosted merchandise sales and donations. The hype is continuing beyond the current tournament as season tickets for next year’s games begin to sell out.
In previous games, an average of 1,400 Owls fans attended home games. This year, the nine-seed team has drawn some of the largest crowds in its history. Its final seven home games had sold-out crowds, with more than 2,900 fans attending, Forbes reports.
As the Owls have progressed through the tournament, fans’ excitement has grown and so has the free advertising FAU receives through its players.
Proud alumni watching the tournament games have also been more generous with donations to the school and the athletics program.
“The fundraising numbers have really gone up exponentially each year,” White said. “That’s thanks to a good staff and a great community and a growing brand of the school. This community in South Florida and Boca Raton, there’s so much wealth there. They’re embracing more and more FAU as their hometown team.”
Donors had started to make considerable contributions before the NCAA tournament. In November, White helped the school secure a $7.5 million donation from Eleanor R. Baldwin, for whom the team’s arena is now named. More recently, FAU received a $5 million donation from Michelle and Michael Hagerty to renovate the athletic department.
With new publicity and attention that comes from being in the NCAA tournament, White thinks the attention on FAU will only grow.
“The NCAA tournament run helps us in every way imaginable. The reason you have Division 1 sports is to be the front porch of the institution and provide that exposure… The exposure FAU athletics provides the University is probably the biggest part, and a run like this greatly enhances that exposure,” White says.
On Saturday, the Owls will take on the San Diego State Aztecs to see who will make it to the final round of March Madness.