Nationally televised games and USA Today profiles are doing more than just rewarding the Griz men’s basketball team for its winning season. They’re also sparking interest in the University.
Jed Liston, the University of Montana vice president of enrollment, said the national coverage after last Wednesday’s 22-point comeback win over Weber State could do wonders for the school. Positive press for Montana helps build a strong name that people won’t forget in the future, he said.
“Overall, name recognition of the school, all those kinds of things have a real effect,” Liston said. “That recognition leads to future students’ perceptions, too. That may be the difference in keeping prospective students’ attention. That’s the beauty of it.”
With the football team playing in a second-straight national championship game mere months ago and the men’s basketball team gracing many ESPN highlight reels this week, Montana has had a true presence on a national stage since early December.
That publicity can help the school’s name stay in the forefront of people’s minds, Liston said. Just like marketing any other product, the school has built a brand, and having people remember the Grizzly brand name will pay off, he said.
Establishing that nationwide brand is made easier because Montana sells more university apparel than any other Football Championship Subdivision school. Liston said you run into maroon Griz gear all over the country these days.
“Through word-of-mouth and every time somebody wears a Griz shirt, our name gets out there,” he said.
Griz basketball coach Wayne Tinkle said he too believes the success and recognition of the University’s sports teams can have an effect outside of athletics.
“It can really help our enrollment, which is so important with the economy the way it is,” Tinkle said. “It definitely gets us more attention and opens more eyes here.”
The national media hype surrounding the Griz basketball team recently could pay off when it comes to getting new recruits for the team, as well, Tinkle added. The team is nearly finished recruiting for next year, but he hopes the attention will have a lasting impact. That should help the Griz reload with talent, as several of the team’s key players are upperclassmen.
“It’ll let folks know we’re not just a one-sport school here,” Tinkle said. “By now, it’s brought us some great attention. It gets people saying, ‘Holy smokes, they’re really doing it the right way there.’ That’s huge because we get recruits from all over the country.”
Though the University’s Web site saw roughly an average amount of visits in the days around the Big Sky basketball tournament, Montana sports have proven to draw folks to school sites in the past.
The day of Montana’s national semifinal win in football over Appalachian State in December, which set FCS viewing records with 1,857,000 households, people visited the University of Montana’s homepage at a staggering rate, said Gordy Pace, director of IT communications at the University.
UM’s homepage saw new visitors soar by 230 percent, and views of the admissions page shot up 130 percent.
“There’s visitors to our site that knew us for no other reason than that game,” Pace said.
After last week’s Big Sky Tournament championship victory and Griz guard Anthony Johnson’s 42-point performance, Web site views of the Montana athletics page skyrocketed even more, jumping 700 percent.
The traffic was up quite a bit the night against Weber State, but the peak happened the next day, said Gordon Terpe, editor of montanagrizzlies.com.
While the views are strikingly high for this time of year, Terpe pointed out the Web site generally sees its peak in November or December. This coincides with Griz football playoffs, he said.
Many of the recent visits can be attributed to links from other Web sites, Terpe said. College basketball Web sites like rivals.com posted links to a YouTube video of highlights from Montana’s come-from-behind win.
The video, also linked to from multiple profiles focused on Johnson, garnered close to 85,000 views so far and was in the top 75 videos viewed over the weekend, Terpe said.