Tiny #14 seed Abiline Christian University defeated #3 seed Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And the value of that win to the tiny southwestern university? “So far we are close to $120 million-plus and we really haven’t had time to tally up the totals,” said university president Dr. Phil Schubert to Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. For context, that is approximately four times the budget of DU athletics in one year.
Schubert went on to state that the team’s nationally televised tournament run should lead to an increase in donations and, ultimately, increased enrollment numbers. “There are other places a university can make significant steps, but I’d say nothing compares to the level of visibility and market value that comes with men’s basketball, at least for us,” he said. “There is no way we can afford the type of the kind of investment return we get here. It shows you what an incredible opportunity these situations bring.”
Denver’s fellow Summit League member, Oral Roberts University, made it to the Sweet 16, further than the ACU Wildcats. According to KELO, their financial return is even greater for the Golden Eagles. “You can’t put a price on the exposure and publicity they are getting right now,” Summit League assistant commissioner for communications Ryan Powell said. “It’s free exposure but they’re earning it on the hardwood.” The two-game NCAA run for the Golden Eagles has benefited the Summit League in a huge way: “You have to win a game to get a unit,” Powell said, noting Oral Roberts has earned the league about $675,000 so far in unit credits. “Every bit counts, especially at the mid-major level. It’s really nice especially when you win.”
Darren Rovell, Sports Business Reporter & Senior Executive Producer for @ActionNetworkHQ explains how important NCAA wins are to add much-needed revenue to mid-major conferences and teams. And a team like Denver with struggling attendance (pre-covid) and losing records likely finished in the red over the last several seasons.
Basketball team profit in last reported year:
Oral Roberts — $214,906
Florida — $2.6 million
(Source: Equity in Athletics)
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 22, 2021
And the publicity, just like Abiline Christian, is huge for #15 seed ORU, too. According to the same KELO article, the social media notice has extended to the Golden Eagles, “They were the No. 1 trending name on Twitter on Sunday night and probably Friday night too. Oral Roberts is the buzzword with March Madness right now.”
Powell added Oral Roberts will receive $35,000 for each win from the unit payout, while the Summit League conference’s President’s Council will determine how much goes to the league and the rest will be divided up equally among the member schools.
While it may feel like the University of Denver is a million miles from ever going to the dance after a 2-19 record this past season, the Pioneers played the Golden Eagles tough. Denver played ORU twice. DU was within 4 points with 55 seconds to go in game one and lost 88-84. In the second game, DU was within 3 points with 30 seconds to go but fell 91-82.
Oral Roberts entered the Summit League Tournament at 13-10 as a #4 seed and then caught fire. They defeated North Dakota, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State in the Summit League conference championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament. They have stunned #2 seed Ohio State and #7 Florida to face #3 seed Arkansas in the Sweet 16 this upcoming Saturday.
Hard to imagine the regional and national recognition that would go to the University of Denver if the Pioneers ever made such a run.