St. Peter’s trip to Sweet 16 is paying off in more ways than one


PHILADELPHIA — As a result of Florida Gulf Coast’s 2013 Sweet 16 run, “Dunk City,” everything has increased — from an increase in applications to the school and support from the community, from pride within the institution to enthusiasm for all sports college basketball fans.

“It was absolutely mammoth,” Mitch Cordova, vice president of student success and enrollment management for Florida’s Gulf Coast, recalled in a telephone interview, citing a 30 percent increase in applicant numbers the following year. “We have noticed a strong increase in interest in our school.”

Saint Peter’s are beginning to see a similar effect stemming from their stunning run to the Sweet 16 last week after Florida Gulf Coast and Oral Roberts are the only 15th seeds advancing to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

School President Eugene Cornacchia said interest in applications has already increased, traffic to the site has “gone through the roof” (it crashed on the night of the first-round excitement over Kentucky on March 17), engagement in the social Media has soared, and according to Amazon retailer Trevco, Saint Peter’s merchandise was the top seller among schools last weekend, selling more than $40,000.

“Oh, it’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing,” Cornacchia said. “I know why it’s called March Madness because it was madness. I don’t know what else to say, but there’s no way we could buy the amount of media coverage we’re getting.”

Eric Smallwood, President of the Apex Marketing Group, has calculated that those two NCAA tournament victories are worth $71 million in marketing exposure to Saint Peter’s. Cornacchia has heard various numbers, one up to $100 million. Smallwood warned that the results won’t be available immediately, especially since it’s late in the process for students who will be freshmen in the fall. But it could be immediate for St. Peter’s players. Shooting guard Doug Edert signed a NIL (Name, Image and Likeness, NIL) deal with Buffalo Wild Wings, and other players are weighing various offers.

“Now people google Saint Peter and find out where it is,” Smallwood said. Cornacchia joked that he never knew Saint Peter’s had so many basketball fans.

Everyone at the Jersey City school stands behind coach Shaheen Holloway’s Peacocks. The school received 1,000 tickets and could have sold fivefold by Friday’s showdown at the Wells Fargo Center against third-place finisher Purdue. Fans flocked to the Run Baby Run Arena for a welcome party on Sunday and gave the team a rousing farewell on Wednesday.

No matter what happens in the Peacocks’ Sweet 16 game on Friday, it appears Saint Peter’s will benefit in a number of ways.

“We were, I wouldn’t say entirely, invisible, but we weren’t as visible as many of us had hoped,” Cornacchia said. “We like to say that we are New Jersey’s best kept secret in terms of higher education, an exceptional academic program and wonderful students.

“But outside of our immediate area, people didn’t really know us. “This will be a real game changer for us in terms of spreading our message and getting exposure.” St. Peter’s trip to Sweet 16 is paying off in more ways than one


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