It’s more than just basketball at Bradley. The Missouri Valley Champs are heading to the Big Dance and school spirit is running high at the Hilltop. The Braves are no stranger to the NCAA Tournament having sweet success in 2006. That team failed to win the conference tournament but earned an at-large bid. Then beat Kansas and Pittsburgh on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.
University President Gary Roberts says financially, a tournament appearance can boost the athletic department and the cost to the school is minimal. “The NCAA picks up most of the expenses for the team and for the coaches and a small number of staff. Then on the flip side because of the enthusiasm and excitement it generates you probably pick up some additional gifts and donations to the university and certainly the athletic program,” said Roberts. He also said if the team could put together a run deep into the tournament, it could be lucrative for the school. The MVC gets a $270,000 check for each game Bradley, or any other MVC team, plays in the tournament from the NCAA. That money is then distributed evenly among all conference teams. Last year with Loyola making the Final Four, it was an economic boost for every team in the conference.
President Roberts said exposure is the biggest bi-product of athletic success. “Athletics is a great window into the university. So success in athletics gives you opportunities to tell the world about the university in a way that you don’t otherwise normally get,” explained Roberts.”What makes me so proud is that we have not only great programs on the court and on the field but every year we win the conference academic championship,” added Roberts.
School bookstore manager Paul Kroenke sees a big boost in business as well. He said the more the team wins, the more people buy. “Absolutely it’s great for business. We’ve had an increase in traffic in the store as well as through our website,” explained Kroenke. The bookstore was already almost out of MVC Champions and March Madness t-shirts that were stocked Wednesday. They do plan to get new orders in throughout the week but in order to make sure you get your gear, Kroenke suggests ordering online.