“It was an exhilarating time,” George Mason spokesman Daniel Walsch recalled. “It was not like anything we’ve experienced before.”
A study conducted by the school concluded the Final Four appearance resulted in immediate gains. Admissions inquiries increased by 350 percent, alumni became more active and fundraising continues to climb. The study estimated the value of free media exposure at $677 million.
“Student demand has certainly increased dramatically” Walsch said, “to the point where we’re bursting at the seams.”
At VCU, the bookstore has been a visible barometer of the school’s popularity as the Rams upset their way to the Final Four, with a stunning victory over top-seeded Kansas last Sunday the biggest of all. About 600 people lined up after that win for the latest shipment of clothing and memorabilia celebrating the team’s historic run.
Amy Randolph, the store general manager, hasn’t been able to keep apace of demand as lines have snaked around the building, just down the busy thoroughfare where the Rams play.
“So many have come down on their lunch break,” Randolph said. “I’ve heard so many people say I’m not even a basketball fan but I had to get a Final Four shirt.”
Bob Dickerson, a 1990 VCU grad, was sizing up a yellow golf shirt with the VCU logo. He was looking for something to wear to work Friday at Virginia Dominion Power. Its downtown high-rise saluted the team in lights Monday with the words: “VCU GO RAMS!”
“It’s incredible, just incredible,” he said. “I don’t think even Kentucky can stop them.”
Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who came from Philadelphia to attend Virginia Union University, said the Rams’ success can only be good for his city of approximately 200,000. It was also rooting for the University of Richmond, which made it to the round of 16.
“We’re riding the wave and we’re really excited about the national attention,” Jones said. “People need to know that Richmond is a city on the rise, that we’re up and coming. Thirty-three-thousand students can’t be wrong.”
“How can you be the mayor of Hoopstown and not go to Houston?” he asked.
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