In reading Gail Sideman’s recent article about March Madness being the NCAA‘s best PR campagin, I began to think of the other PR benefits provided by this tournament. I grew accustomed to watching the Iowa Hawkeyes. Guys like Ricky Davis, Acie Earl, Reggie Evans, Russ Millard and BJ Armstrong (who I met again as he represented Derrick Rose and accompanied him to throw out the first pitch at a White Sox game the next day after being selected #1). Later I began playing football for the Panthers of Northern Iowa, it was guys like Matt Schniederman, Ben Jacobsen (the player) and returning alum coach Greg McDermott that brought the rise of Panther basketball. Ben Jacobsen brought it again to new heights.
It had been 20 years since the Northern Iowa basketball team had won an NCAA tourney game, on a similar shot to that of Maurice Newby’s until Ali Farokhmanesh beat UNLV this past Thursday evening with this shot.
Before that Northern Iowa was pretty much an unknown school in Cedar Falls, IA mostly recognized for a tradition rich FCS Football history. The University of Northern Iowa is one of only two schools in the history of college football to have both an Offensive and Defensive MVP in the NFL. Bryce Paup and Kurt Warner both are alumnus, as well at Entertainment Tonight Co-host Mark Steins who played wide receiver for the UNI Panthers. Also this past year Browns wide receiver/defensive back Mike Furrey had been selected as one of three finalists for the 2009 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award,
With force that is now Northern Iowa basketball, and it being the 8th time since 1994 that a Missouri Valley Team has joined the sweet 16, the PR our school in Cedar Falls, Iowa is getting is unparalleled. Here are just a few tweets and a handful from Darren Rovell of CNBC’s sports business.
@ESPN UNI knocks out Kansas, advances to Sweet 16 – http://tinyurl.com/yhbfe3e
@Peter_R_Casey That’s the sound of my bracket going through the shredder. UNI made it enjoyable.
@darrenrovell1 Kansas’ Bill Self ($3M) makes MORE THAN 10 TIMES the salary of UNI’s Ben Jacobson ($289,900).
@darrenrovell1 Best part of UNI Ben Jacobson’s contract? UNI had salary freeze so boosters agreed to pony up $130K/year.
@darrenrovell1 “Ali Farokhmanesh” has 75,800 google hits. Should surpass “Bryce Drew” at 103,000 by tomorrow night
@darrenrovell1 Adidas pays Kansas $3.33M/year. Wonder how much Nike pays Northern Iowa?
@darrenrovell1 In ’09, Northern Iowa spent $19,099 per player. Kansas? $97,449 per player.
Then there’s the real muscle of doing well in the NCAA tourney. The university logo will be on TV more during that week than it could ever imagine affording in its wildest basketball dreams. The basketball budget alone for Kansas most likely exceeds Northern Iowa’s total athletic budget. The exposure that comes with upsetting a #1 ranked team is dandy, doing it in the NCAA tourney makes it a diaper of a dandy. The exposure that UNI gains over a week’s time will be enjoyed by fans and soaked in by the athletic department.
One reason I believe fans enjoy the basketball tournament over the BCS laden football championship is the stories like these it unveils and thrives on. Despite loosing to Michigan State, sweet 16 exposure still boosts a program on the rise and draws attention to a great University in the heart of Iowa. Thank you NCAA tourney.