VCU victories are money in the bank

Virginia Commonwealth University’s upset Thursday night over Wichita State should start the money train all over again for the upstart basketball program.

VCU apparel sales on campus last March during the team’s Final Four run topped $1.3 million, compared to just $59,600 the previous March, according to the university. VCU had only $800,000 in revenue from apparel the entire prior year.

The volume of purchasing was almost as impressive as the revenue: more than 10,000 web transactions came during the 2011 tournament, compared to just 280 the year prior. According to Collegiate Licensing Company, the licensing division of IMG College, which handles VCU’s products, the school's second-quarter licensing revenue last year was not only the largest in school history but topped all previous annual totals.

Prior to Thursday’s game, VCU had seen a 65 percent increase in royalties over this time last year -- and the unlikely victory will surely push that higher.

The phenomenon isn’t unique to schools like VCU that have less national awareness coming into the tournament. In 2008, when Kansas won the national championship, it saw licensing revenue increase during its run by $750,000. UNC’s championships in 2005 and 2009 amounted to licensing revenue increases of $543,000 and $511,000.

Those dollars don’t include alumni giving. In that area, VCU has seen donations to athletics increase a whopping 376 percent since last year.

Scholars have long debated whether athletic success affects overall giving to a university. VCU is making the case that there is a positive correlation: since last year’s tournament appearance, overall giving to the university is up 46 percent.

"I believe the university’s significant increase in freshman applications and substantial increase in donations, as a result of the NCAA tournament, reflects an enhanced feeling of pride and enthusiasm for VCU that will have a long-term impact on the enrollment and retention of quality students,” said Dan McDonald, VCU’s assistant director of business services.