At Morgan State - turning March Madness bid into bucks

Daily Record Business Writer
March 16, 2009 7:53 PM

The school pride in Morgan State University’s first-ever March Madness appearance is one of those intangibles sports marketers say can translate later into cold hard cash — but only if the school takes action now.

Morgan State Director of Athletics Floyd Kerr: ‘The excitement on campus is phenomenal…our kids are creating their own ‘good old days.’ I think the residual impact will be more clearly defined after the school year.’“When enthusiasm is high, people make the mistake of saying that’ll do it all by itself,” said Bob Leffler, a Baltimore-based sports marketer and a Morgan State alumnus.

“[Morgan] has a new stadium, a new [basketball] coach and they’re winning — you’ve got to grab that by the neck and spend money and make it happen,” he said.

For a small school like Morgan State, those crowd-pleasing rewards to making the NCAA Division I basketball tournament are the ones that can really represent big bucks.

“The excitement on campus is phenomenal ... our kids are creating their own ‘good old days,’” said Floyd Kerr, the university’s director of athletics. “I think the residual impact will be more clearly defined after the school year.”

In the meantime, Morgan’s marketing company plans on doing a promotion for 2009-10 basketball season ticket sales around the tournament appearance and is creating other athletics department promotions based on the berth, according to Kerr.

That kind of strategy can pay off huge, said Leffler, who counts the Cinderella team of the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament, George Mason University, among his more than 20 college and university clients.

Since George Mason’s improbable run to the Final Four, Leffler said the school’s season ticket base and fan base has doubled.

“If anybody puts anything behind a campaign, you might grow 1,000 season tickets off of that,” he said. “You have to be ready for success.”

One immediate impact for Morgan will be the cash the NCAA awards to schools that make it into the tournament. The berth wins Morgan State about $206,000 from the NCAA’s basketball fund for each game it plays in. Each school is awarded that amount for each game its team plays in the tournament, excluding the championship game.

“That’s like a windfall for us,” Kerr said. “You can’t plan for that.”

The remainder of the $154.7 million the basketball fund will dole out this year will go to the NCAA’s 33 Division I conferences after the tournament. The 11 schools in Morgan’s league — the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — received a total of $1.146 million last year, including the $191,000 awarded to last year’s tournament representative, Coppin State University.

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