This week UConn’s Jim Calhoun became only the seventh coach in Division I basketball history to win 800 games. Nevertheless, people around the state, and the country, continue to discuss Coach Calhoun’s clash with a reporter during a post-game press conference last Saturday night. In fact, some members of the Connecticut General Assembly have demanded that Calhoun be reprimanded (an example of political opportunism which demonstrates that the General Assembly hasn’t learned to stay out of the athletic arena since last year’s involvement in negotiations between UConn and Notre Dame).
One pertinent topic of discussion and examination that arose, is whether Coach Calhoun’s assertion that UConn basketball brings in $12 million per year is accurate. The Hartford Courant breaks down the figures. Even these numbers, however, fail to accurately assess the impact of UConn basketball and Coach Calhoun on the university. For much of the impact is difficult to quantify. It is impossible to determine exactly what impact the basketball program had on the athletic department’s securing of multi-million dollar contracts with IMG College and Nike, but as UConn’s flagship program, basketball likely played a significant role. UConn merchandise sales are also difficult to attribute to a particular sport. In sum, we can do no more than speculate about the total amount of money that UConn basketball brings to the university.
But let’s look deeper than the revenue at issue and consider the “Flutie Effect.”
The Flutie Effect refers to the increase in student applications to attend Boston College after Doug Flutie’s completed his Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan to beat Miami in 1984. Studies have confirmed that the “Flutie Effect” is a real phenomenon. In fact, studies have shown that schools that make the NCAA basketball tournament will net an average 1 percent bump in applications the following year; schools that make it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament see an average 3 percent boost in applications; and the national champion is likely to see a 7 to 8 percent increase.
Doug Flutie, for all of his heroics, played football at Boston College for 4 years. He became a nationally known player in his senior year, when he completed the Hail Mary against Miami and won the Heisman Trophy. Coach Calhoun has been at UConn for 22 years. By my calculations, he has guided UConn to 14 NCAA tournament appearances, including 4 Sweet Sixteen appearances, 5 Elite Eight appearances and 2 national championships.
So if the Flutie Effect, arising from one incredible pass and one sublime season, is real as studies have confirmed, imagine what the Calhoun Effect has been on the University of Connecticut over the last two decades?