‘People just sent money’: what happened after St. Peter’s basketball fairy tale? | college basketball

JTake it from the president of Saint Peter’s himself: Life isn’t quite back to normal at the tiny college in Jersey City, whose basketball team stunned the sports world in March in becoming the first No. 15 seed in history to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

“It may sound crazy,” Eugene J Cornacchia told the Guardian, referring to the student body, “but they seem to walk with more confidence, more spring in their step.”

The most obvious effect has been on gamers, who have gone from competing in front of a few hundred fans to broadcasting to millions of people across America. “We’ve generated a lot of publicity for our school,” said Peacocks junior guard Daryl Banks III, who transferred to St Bonaventure this week after the loss to North Carolina. “So it’s just going to help the school in general. Caught the attention of anyone who wants to come here. I think what we did will impact everyone who knows the school now.

The unexpected injection of good vibes was a wonderful side effect, of course, but, perhaps more importantly in the long run, the school coffers also took a big hit – and not just because St. over $22 Peacocks T-shirts in its online store.

More and more people give money to the school. Cornacchia has a juicy stat: Between March 9 and March 26, 2021, a year before Saint Peter’s historic NCAA race, the university received 149 “gifts” totaling $475,000. During the same period this year, as the Peacocks beat college basketball giants like Kentucky and Purdue, the school received 414 giveaways totaling $2.3 million.

“I wish they could do this every year,” Cornacchia laughs.

He says, “A lot of people just sent money – they didn’t designate it for anything.”

The Peacocks had to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament just to qualify for the NCAA tournament, then received the 15th of 16 seeds in the Eastern Region and a first-round game against the No. 2, the eight-time national champions from Kentucky. (annual basketball budget: $20 million).

“This is St Peter’s first appearance in an NCAA tournament since 2011, where he lost to Purdue by 22 points as the No. 13 seed,” Yahoo Sports sniffed ahead of the Kentucky game. “Don’t expect a better performance this time around.”

Well, the Peacocks beat Kentucky (student enrollment: 30,500) in overtime, then knocked out Murray State (student enrollment: 9,500) and No. 3 seed Purdue (student enrollment: 50,000), before falling to North Carolina, which then reached the tournament final. As a result, the Peacocks won over many fans, and not just locally.

According to the university, its licensing partner – which sells school merchandise – brought in more than $300,000 in sales in the two weeks after the Peacocks upset Kentucky. In the first eight month in the fiscal year, which began last July, the school’s licensing partner recorded sales of $58,813.

Saint Peter’s recorded $47,000 in campus sales from March 17-24, with $15,000 in merchandise sold on March 24, the day before Purdue’s game alone. These numbers exceed $20,000 in similar on-campus sales during the fall semester, September through December.

Over the weekend of March 19 (just after the team shocked Kentucky), Trevco, which sells sporting goods on Amazon, told the school that Saint Peter’s was its top-selling institution with more of $40,000 in sales.

“I don’t know if people will continue to wear them down the line,” Cornacchia said of the merchandise bonanza. “But I hope so.”

Moreover, the news of Saint-Pierre spread. The attention the school has received on so-called “free media” has been estimated at $125 million to $150 million, Cornacchia says. During the week of March 12, Saint Peter’s search terms on Amazon were comparable to those of the biggest college football teams heading into their seasons. A week later, they were on par with Alabama, a football team that generates $95 million in revenue a year. Those who had just attended a Peacocks game tended to like what they saw.

Peacocks fans prepare for a game at this year's NCAA tournament
Peacocks fans are gearing up for a game at this year’s NCAA Tournament. Photography: Paul Zimmerman/Rex/Shutterstock

Cornacchia tells the story of watching the Peacocks play Murray State in Indianapolis. Some non-Peacocks fans found seats in front of Cornacchia and were quick to comment on how impressed they were with Saint Peter’s. Cornacchia introduces himself. A pleasant conversation ensued, and one of the fans promised Cornacchia that he would write the school a check for $2,800. “I have no idea why he offered that amount,” Cornacchia says.

He says Saint Peter alumni have “been electrified by this moment”. Despite its location in the New York metropolitan area, the school was not widely known before the tournament, even among high school basketball players who wanted to play in college.

Cornacchia says an alumni reception was held recently in Bergen County, about 20 miles north of Jersey City. An event like this usually draws 25 to 30 people, he said. This one drew more than 70.

Exactly how all the fanfare is boosting applications and enrollments won’t become clear for another year or two, Cornacchia says, though the school’s graduate international business program has attracted additional interest from Japan, the United States and the United States. Italy and India.

“Nothing we can do, other than the Nobel Prize for something medically amazing, gets the attention it does,” he says.

Prior to this season, Saint Peter’s, with a donation from a major donor, had renovated its drab and outdated 3,200-seat gymnasium into a light installation called Run Baby Run Arena, named after the 1968 Saint Peter team that upset Duke at the National Invitation Tournament. . Some donations may go towards modernizing the Yanitelli Center, which surrounds the arena. It is likely the donations will also go to non-sporting facilities, although the school has not detailed its exact spending plans.

There were losses however. To no one’s surprise, Shaheen Holloway, the coach who orchestrated Saints Peter’s run, left school a day after the Peacocks lost to North Carolina. Holloway took the head coaching job 11 miles away at Seton Hall, a Big East Conference school (with a bigger sports budget) where Holloway played and graduated. But Saint-Pierre was on his guard. On April 12, the school hired Bashir Mason, a Jersey City native who coached at nearby Wagner College in Staten Island, to replace Holloway. Mason is just 38 and he coached Wagner to within a 2022 NCAA Tournament victory.

The tournament also created unexpected bonds. Cornacchia says he received an email from Oral Roberts University President William Wilson congratulating the runaway school and inviting him to call him when the tournament is over.

Oral Roberts, an evangelical institution of 4,000 students in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was Cinderella’s team at the 2021 NCAA Tournament, also entering as the No. 15 seed before upsetting No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Florida to make it to the Sweet 16. ORU lost in the Elite Eight to Arkansas – on a field goal with three seconds left. The Peacocks would win this run in 2022.

“It was interesting,” Cornacchia says of her conversation with Wilson. “His perspective was that this is a special moment – but don’t lose sight of the fact that it doesn’t last forever – unless you invest in it.”

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