University of Richmond Latest School to Benefit From ‘Flutie Effect’

An interesting news item caught my eye this week regarding the University of Richmond. It seems the 182-year-old institution received a record number of applicants this year, 10,121 to be exact. That’s an extra 660 from last year’s total.

Of course there are any number of reasons why Richmond’s popularity shot up in the past year, but it’s certainly no coincidence that the school’s basketball team making it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament had an impact.

Researchers have given this phenomenon a term: the “Flutie Effect.” It is named in honor of Boston College legend Doug Flutie’s miracle Hail Mary over Miami in 1984. Immediately after BC’s incredible win, application numbers began pouring in.

Some doubt the validity of the “Flutie Effect,” but ESPN’s Dana O’Neil had a great article a few years back on the University of Iowa’s popularity skyrocketing  after the hoops team knocked off perennial No. 1 Kansas that spring. The school came up with a 21-page report on how Ali Farokhmanesh’s game-winning shot changed the school. Some quick numbers: a 1,577 percent increase in sales at the online store, a 268 percent increase in unique visitors to the UNI website that month, and 24,306 Google searches for “Northern Iowa” on the day of the upset.

These schools are hardly alone. Jim Naveau pointed out in a 2007 column just what these upsets can meant to schools. NPR’s Andrea Seabrook held a podcast in 2008 to talk about the effect of March Madness upsets.

With plenty of debate raging about paying college athletes the “Flutie Effect” has taught us that even college sports means big business.

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