March Madness Puts Unknown Schools on the National Stage

March Madness Puts Unknown Schools on the National Stage

Sports Help Boost School's Profile

It’s that time of year. The country is filling out brackets and watching hours upon hours of NCAA Tournament action every weekend. After last weekend’s whirlwind of games, the field of 68 is down to just 16 schools. Most are traditional basketball powerhouses—and large state universities—like Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Florida. Other teams that made noise during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, including a few that advanced to the Sweet 16, aren’t notable names outside of their home state.

The biggest surprise of the first weekend was Lehigh University’s shocking upset of perennial powerhouse and No. 2 seed Duke. Lehigh, a private school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has an undergraduate population of less than 5,000 students, far fewer than the tens of thousands of students that many NCAA Tourney schools boast. Norfolk State University, the other 15 seed to knock off a No. 2 seed (Missouri), qualifies as a Historically Black University and has an enrollment of about 7,000 students.

Success in the much-hyped, much-watched NCAA Tournament can help schools gain recognition nationally. Other unknowns that have made a major impact on college basketball in recent years include Butler University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Mason University. During March Madness, students at these schools can enjoy the recognition—and being the talk of the nation.

Being on a national stage during the NCAA Tournament surely brings many benefits to colleges and universities. Enrollment can increase, and athletic teams can attract top recruits thanks to their postseason success. In this case, academics and athletics go hand in hand in improving a school’s profile, increasing applicants, and bringing in more money. In the end, both academics and athletics win with on-the-court success in March.