By Mike Leonard
When Indiana’s Hoosiers do well on the basketball court, they do well with fundraising and merchandise sales.
Donations earmarked for athletics were up more than $1 million last year from the previous year and Indiana University communications spokesman Mark Land said it’s logical to assume the Hoosiers’ phoenix-like rise from the doldrums of the past years was the reason.
Revenue from royalties earned from the sale of IU athletics-related merchandise rose 15 percent last year and as of early March was more than 30 percent higher than last year, he said, noting those figures were compiled before the Hoosiers claimed the Big Ten regular season title and before IU was named a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“Anecdotally,” he said, “I was just talking to Val Gill (the university’s director of licensing and trademarks) yesterday, and she said merchandise is flying off the shelves right now.”
Requests for the use of licensed IU logos and trademarks also are up. “We’re getting the number of requests in one day that we used to get in one week,” Land said.
That’s good news as well at a school where basketball-related revenue accounts for 25 to 30 percent of sports income, a number roughly double the norm at football powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska. It’s even good for the IU regional campuses, Land said, because royalties are shared throughout the system.
Butler University saw a large bump in applications for admissions when its basketball team reached the Final Four in 2010 and 2011. “That doesn’t really happen for us, because we’re a pretty well-known name brand nationally and we get plenty of applications,” Land said. “There might be some uptick, but not enough to shout about.”
What makes the IU spokesman happy is the free and positive press that winning basketball generates for the overall university and the opportunities that creates. While IU may well be known nationally, there’s always room for a bigger presence and greater prestige. “It allows us to get the message out, especially to key areas outside the state,” Land said. “For example, if we’re fortunate enough to get through this weekend, we’ll be headed to Washington, D.C., next week, and that’s a big area for us, a place where we know we’d like a higher profile,” he said.
That creates a good problem to have — do you market the school comprehensively or do you target the new School of Global and International Studies as an example of the positive energy and foresight of IU?
“To have the president pick us to win the championship, I don’t know how you measure that, but it can’t be a bad thing,” Land said.
IU’s thrilling return to basketball prominence last year and top 10 rankings for the entire 2012-13 season certainly fueled enthusiasm on campus, and that’s something money can’t buy, the IU spokesman said. A camera crew will set up in the Indiana Memorial Union from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today to videotape good-luck messages to show next week, he said. On Thursday, if the Hoosiers are still in the tournament, the campus will celebrate a “Show your Stripes” day and school representatives will be randomly handing out IU “swag” to students strutting their stuff.
On the subject of apparel, Land said it looks like athletics director Fred Glass absolutely made the right decision when he declined the offer from apparel sponsor Adidas to put the Hoosiers in special, flashy uniforms during last week’s conference tournaments.
Notre Dame, Kansas, Cincinnati and Louisville all agreed to wear the new uniforms and were widely panned by fans and critics. “We got a lot of praise from people for standing our ground,” Land said. “And, really, it makes all the sense in the world. Our look is distinctive in part because it doesn’t change. Whether it’s the candy-striped pants or the jerseys with no names on the back, it says IU. It says tradition.”
Whether the Hoosiers will ever again have to wince when an announcer describes them as the University of Indiana is another matter. “I haven’t heard that one for a while,” the IU spokesman said. “But as long as Charles Barkley’s around, there’s always a chance for that to get screwed up.”
Mike Leonard writes for the Bloomington Herald-Times.
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