Zags success on court translates to success across university

Published On: Mar 19 2013 05:53:37 PM PDT
Gonzaga basketball WCC tourney victory
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The Zags are off to Salt Lake City to begin what many believe will be a run to the Final Four, and while the Zags are hot on the court, their impact is far reaching across the university campus and beyond.

Since Gonzaga's basketball team started dominating the West Coast Conference over the last 14 years the numbers of applications to the university have jumped and so has the amount of money the school has raised.

Although they can't attribute it all to the basketball program, the national attention helps. The first time the Zags really captured the eye of the country was in 1999. The team, a 10 seed back then, won upset after upset all the way to the Elite Eight.

"In '99, that was their first glory year, and I was 8-years-old, that was when I first ever heard of the school," senior Brian Burgess said.

Burgess lived in western Washington and never thought anything of the school until he saw the Zags on television. On Tuesday he was busy picking the top-ranked Bulldogs to win the national championship.

"I didn't know anything but the name and the team and then here it is in Spokane, had some family over here, and really started to look at it," he said.

Gonzaga Dean of Admissions Julie McCulloh says the team's success has boosted the school's applications.

"It's been great for name recognition, and great for getting our name out there," she said.

Two years after the Zags' run to the Elite Eight applications jumped 33 percent. Since that season they've increased from about 2000 applications a year to nearly 7000. In turn Gonzaga has become a more selective school; acceptance rates have dropped from 85-percent to 66-percent.

"I think the effect is much more prominent on younger students, junior high, or early high schoolj because they're watching the games with their families," McCulloh said.

That was the case for Jennifer Van Cott of Spokane, who solidified her pick of schools while talking with friends.

"When you start hearing friends from other states, across the country, knowing who Gonzaga is and you got accepted to that school, it's kind of a big deal," she said.

Now administrators hope this year's success on the court translates into more success for the school again.

"It's wonderful this year, I have a feeling that we'll get to see the benefits of this for a few years to come," McCulloh said.