The below post is the second part of this article. It starts by examining benefits enjoyed by programs advancing deep into the NCAA Tourney:
Schools that advance in the NCAA tournament do tend to become richer. George Mason University, a public school of more than 30,000 students based in Fairfax County, Virginia, had never won a tournament game before 2006.
But that March, it broke into the Final Four — and into the black. The school’s fundraising rose from $19.6 million to $23.5 million, and George Mason merchandise led bookstore sales to $800,000 in March 2006 alone. (Sales the previous year totaled $625,000.) A study cited in Street and Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal estimates that print, internet, and game coverage — twenty-three hours of national television broadcast exposure — was converted into $677,474,659 worth of media exposure for George Mason.
UAPB didn’t go as deep into the tournament as George Mason, doesn’t have the same-sized network (it has more than 3,800 students and 1,400 paying members of its national alumni association), and is in a far poorer part of the country. (Devonshire Associates, Ltd. and Scan/U.S., Inc. estimated Pine Bluff’s 2009 median household income as $31,356.The U.S. Census Bureau pegged that stat in Fairfax County, Virginia, as $107,075 circa 2008.) Partly because vendors didn’t have time to market Golden Lion gear at tournament sites, there was “very little effect” in UAPB merchandise sales following the NCAAs, says John Kuykendall, UAPB’s director of alumni affairs and government relations.
The school didn’t see an influx of donations in the months after the tournament, either.
Margaret Martin-Hall, director of UABP’s office of university relations and development, says annual contributions have held steady between $1.7 million and $1.8 million for the last three or four years. However, she adds, she was pleased that donations didn’t decrease considering the recession. “Our money comes in thousands and hundreds, and some other places they come in millions,” Davis says. “Our people give what they are able to give.”
Still, the basketball program has seen tangible benefits. The school’s NCAA tournament ticket sales totaled $3,075, interim athletic director Willie Fulton writes in an e-mail. The conference distributed about $99,745 to UAPB as its cut of TV revenue, making the NCAA Tournament, and winning the SWAC championship. In the fall, a group of some 120 UAPB lettermen raised $10,000 for new equipment — including free weights, two stair steppers, and stationary bikes. Other amenities for the basketball team have included a new scoreboard and new practice gear. The tournament appearance also helps lure recruits.
Daniel Broughton didn’t have to go far. Before last spring, the Pine Bluff native, one of the team’s four freshmen, was considering his hometown school, the University of Central Arkansas, Southeastern Missouri, Drake University, and Murray State. Watching UAPB’s
first game of March Madness with fellow recruit Marcel Mosley of Marion turned him into a Golden Lion. “As they played Winthrop, me and Marcel were on the phone talking to each other and we were like ‘Well, we could both be going to that school’ … so we ended up signing.” Broughton says that 61-44 victory helped convince Keith Ross, his Watson Chapel High School
teammate, to sign with UAPB, too.
UAPB’s men’s basketball team had a twenty-nine percent graduation rate in 2009, according to NCAA records. That rate includes student-athletes who complete degree programs and receive diplomas within six years of enrollment as well as those who transfer to another school or turn professional while in good academic standing. That statistic was released nine days after UAPB’s loss to Duke in an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article which also highlighted UAPB’s failure to reach an academic progress rate of 925. That standard calculates a team’s eligibility based on players returning and maintaining good academic standing. UAPB scored 907, and failure to meet 925 for two consecutive years could result in a lost scholarship. After three years, the school may be banned from preseason and postseason play.
Credit spewed in multiple directions following No. 15-seeded Lehigh’s historic upset of No. 2-seeded Duke on Friday night, including backward. Lehigh had played No. 1-seeded Michigan State earlier this season, and its star guard C.J. McCollum credited that game (a 9-point loss) with toughening the team: “It helped a lot,” McCollum told the New York Times after beating Duke.“Early on, we were in some tough environments. That gave us confidence we could play with anybody in the country.”
This reasoning reminded me of UAPB’s surprising run in March 2010, when the No.16-seeded Golden Lions became the only men’s basketball in Arkansas to win an NCAA Tournament game the last four years. The reward for that win was a date No.1-seeded Duke in Jacksonville, Florida. UAPB didn’t exactly pull a Lehigh there.
But that doesn’t mean their story wasn’t historic in its own right, as the following Arkansas Life article (published in March 2011) shows:
“It was like UAPB was Tiger Woods for one week.”
“Schools like UAPB support a Sisyphean system in which early-season beatings are scheduled for the chance, if all goes well, to get whacked in the end.”
UAPB’s basketball team made an amazing tournament run a year ago, but its success reveals a Catch-22 when it comes to college athletics: Some teams have to lose to stay alive.
by Evin Demirel
For nearly a week last March, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff stood alone at the center of Arkansas’s sports world. Its men’s basketball team graced the front pages and led the 10 o’clock news in a way usually reserved for the almighty Arkansas Razorbacks. But as the only Division I Arkansas men’s team in March Madness — aka, the NCAA basketball tournament — the UAPB Golden Lions were the official feel-good story of the spring. They had flipped an 0-11 start into a 12-1 finish through hard work, defense, and pluck, riding such enduring virtues through a whirlwind tournament tour that didn’t stop until top seed and future national champion Duke decided that enough was enough. In the opening round of the tourney, the Dukies clobbered UAPB 73-44 in Jacksonville, Florida, but by then the story had sold.
The Golden Lions returned heroes, beloved by a city they had thrust into the national limelight for reasons otherthan chemical weapons, poverty, and unemployment. Long an also-ran on Best Places lists, Pine Bluff had something to be proud of — its nationally known basketball team. “It kind of felt like we were rock stars for a week and a half,” says Terrance Calvin, a senior guard on last year’s squad. “By the time we reached Dayton [site of a tournament game] I had probably had about a thousand friend requests on Facebook. … And by the time we reached Florida, I had another thousand.”
The good cheer spread.
“It excited everybody — the run that these young men made,” says Harold Blevins, a UAPB alumnus and former men’s basketball coach at the college. “It excited the city, it excited the state, it excited all the alumni. As an ex-coach you even had people calling me thinking I was still coaching” and asking for tickets. “I could not find a network that was not talking about UAPB,” an anonymous poster commented on a Pine Bluff Commercial online article. “It was like UAPB was Tiger Woods for 1 week(lol).” In the ensuing weeks, congratulatory messages flooded in from public officials like Congressman Mike Ross, state senator Henry Wilkins IV, and state representative Darrin Williams. Jefferson County Judge Mike Holcomb declared March 19 “Black and Gold Day” in honor of the team’s NCAA Tournament victory over Winthrop.
But UAPB’s breathtaking rise last season was bookended by other storylines, each limning dark shadows above which Arkansas’s Cinderella team bounded to the Big Dance. These trenchant issues are not exclusive to UAPB athletics; they extend to other public universities, down to primary education and through society itself.
In December 2009, a Virgina sports radio talk show host reminded his state’s governor of a popular in-state basketball competition from decades ago. Basketball fans in Virginia had told the host they wanted to see that tournament return, and he passed their message on to Governor Bob McDonnell.
The message, evidentally, was well received.
In August 2011, the governor announced the creation of a December doubleheader between four in-state Division I basketball programs. Not only will the event, scheduled for two years, benefit sports fans in that state, but it will help a good cause. Proceeds go to Virginia’s Food Banks, which are especially in need around Christmas.
Virginians saw an opportunity to capitalize on the recent NCAA Tournament successes of some of their D1 programs, and help the hungry while at it, and they struck.
So should Arkansans.
Never before has Arkansas had a better opportunity to form an event between four Division I basketball programs. For many years, Arkansas’ only four D1 programs included its flagship university – UA-Fayetteville. Forget the Razorbacks scheduling in-state competition, however. That policy’s origins, and arguments for and against, have already gotten plenty of cyber-ink. No reason to spill more here, as this post focuses on the other programs]
But when the University of Central Arkansas became a full-fledged Division 1 member in 2010, UA-Fayetteville was no longer a necessary participant in a theoretical competition between the state’s top programs. And it’s UCA’s athletic director, Brad Teague, who strongly advocates scheduling such a competition: “I think it’s something certainly all the [local] basketball coaches talk about and think would be good for the state to do.”