The Thrill of March Madness

By March 17, 2015 No Comments

By John Blanchard

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

March Madness captivates us as a nation. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has managed to grab our collective national interest, even if we do not follow the sport during the regular season.

What is it that has thrust the tournament to the forefront of the nation’s sporting interest? I think it is the massively inspirational accomplishments of those teams who don’t match up with the resources and the exposure of the teams representing the larger institutions.

We all love the underdog. We all root for David to beat Goliath. It’s natural for us to do so. And while we would love to do the same in football, those upsets are just far too uncommon to captivate our collective national psyche.

Gonzaga is a great example of a small school who was an unknown in the world of big time college athletics until 1999 when they made a run into the Elite 8.

This memorable 1999 run put GU on the map. The total number of applicants to the university grew from 1,705 in 1997 to 7162 in 2014 — a 320 percent increase, according to the Office of Admissions. The acceptance rate dropped from 92 percent to 67 percent and the school enrolls over twice as many students as it did 18 years ago. Gonzaga Bulletin February 26 2015

The beauty of Gonzaga’s response is that they used the prominence of the basketball team to attract more students and the interest generated by basketball opened the door for the university to sell all that Gonzaga has to offer; so much more than a successful basketball team.

But the students didn’t get to the door without walking through the front porch. And that is the pinnacle of the athletic enterprise in higher education, being part of that front porch.


So, as March madness begins and all 68 teams have a chance, let’s aim high and advance the cause of the institutions…educating and preparing young people for the journey that lies ahead of them once they leave the confines of college.