Basketball success proves profitable for Gonzaga

Published On: Mar 19 2013 06:24:55 PM PDT
Gonzaga basketball, 2012-13
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Fourteen years ago the Gonzaga Bulldogs first hit the national stage, proving to be a windfall for the university, with annual fundraising up 70 percent compared to what it was back then.

This year, fundraising for the university topped $16 million.

In 1999, there were no alumni chapters for the university; today there are 35 chapters across North America and Japan.

This year, with the basketball team ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season and heavily favored to go deep into the post-season, the school is hoping the national attention from the basketball team will help continue to build the school.

"I heard about Gonzaga when [John] Stockton was playing for the [Utah] Jazz. So when John Stockton was playing for them, it got me interested in Gonzaga," Gonzaga student Jennifer Van Cott said.

It's sentimental visions, that name recognition, that's boosted Gonzaga's success off the court as much as it has on it.

Many students first heard of the university on television during a basketball game. Marketing professor Carl Bozman said the amount of media attention from the Elite Eight run in 1999 is estimated to be worth approximately $50 million.

"When I first got here, you could walk into the old Martin Arena, which is no longer where we play, wave your ID and anybody with you and all those standing around would walk in for free," Bozman said.

Things changed so Bozman bought season tickets. He also conducted a study to find how much the Zags brought in revenue for Spokane in 2006. The answer: more than $2 million.

"People coming in from out of the area to watch athletics, renting hotel rooms, buying meals, matter," he said.

The number of donors to the university has doubled since 1999 and the school's endowment has grown from $67 million to $148 million.

Zagnomics, as it's called in the Inland Northwest, means big business.

It also means improvements for the campus, with some of the money donated going toward things like scholarships and construction, and the university announced plans to start building a new cafeteria for students.

And, perhaps, another deep run into the post-season on the court will translate into more students, more money and more buildings on campus.