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Here’s how FAU’s Final Four appearance is helping it get more money and prestige

A historic presence in the NCAA Final Four tournament has brought extra money, attention and prestige to Florida Atlantic University and could lead to big changes for the future.

Fundraising, merchandise sales, ticket sales, alumni participation and media attention all spiked in the first quarter of 2023 following the FAU Owls basketball team’s astounding winning streak that resulted in only its first March Madness tournament appearance in more than two decades and its first-ever appearance in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four.

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The Owls seemed destined to head to the finals but suffered a heartbreaking buzzer beat loss to San Diego State in the semifinals on April 2.

FAU administrators hope to leverage their school’s athletic success to improve the 30,000-student university, through enhancements to sports, academics and student life. They told the FAU Board of Trustees at a meeting this week the university could become more selective, while also expanding housing, dining and study space options.

“We know that we will have an increased interest in coming to FAU. That doesn’t just mean that we’re going to increase enrollment,” FAU Interim President Stacy Volnick told the Board of Trustees at a meeting Tuesday. “What that might mean is we keep enrollment where our goals have been set but we’re more selective in the types of students.”

That could also mean attracting more students from out-of-state and internationally, she said.

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These students often pay three to four times as much as that in-state, which would increase the university’s revenue. The university has been trying to shed its image as a commuter school by developing more on-campus amenities, too.

FAU is also conducting a study on the needs of its athletic facilities.

Officials say they’ve already sold 527 season-ticket packages for the men’s basketball team for next season, compared to less than 300 sold for this past season. The arena seats 2,900 people.

“We need a new bigger arena,” Barbara Feingold, vice chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, said at a meeting Tuesday.

Interim President Stacy Volnick said the university is taking a broader look, conducting an athletic master plan.

“It’s not just about basketball, but it is about all of our sports,” Volnick said. “We know baseball facilities are a dire need. So it’s about what does Athletics need for the next five years and the next 10 years.”

University officials shared many data points during Tuesday’s meeting to show how interest in FAU has surged.

  • Royalties from January to March 2023 were $59,674, compared to $35,383 during the same period a year ago.
  • FAU benefited from the value of $1.91 billion in advertising this year, compared to $132.7 million a year ago. This includes a digital billboard on Times Square in New York City, 17 billboards in South Florida, four in Houston, a Final Four coverage sponsorship and 30-second commercials on WPEC-Ch. 12 in West Palm Beach, 30-second commercials on a Houston TV station and ads in the South Florida Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Houston Chronicle. Some ads, incluiding the one at Times Square, were paid for by FAU, while others were paid by sponsors or supporters.
  • The total gifts to FAU increased by 80%, while donors increased by 104%. Gifts to athletics increased 341%, while the number of athletic donors increased by 417%.
  • Visits to FAU’s athletics social media pages dramatically increased, with a 617% increase in profile visits on Instagram, a 337% increase in Twitter visits and a 659% increase in Facebook page visits.
  • Google searches for Florida Atlantic University basketball increased 135% from March 2022 to March 2023.
  • The FAU Alumni Association is starting 14 new geography-based alumni groups as a result of tournament watch parties held. The alumni association got about 400 new members, with another 200 increasing their donations through a March campaign. Officials say alumni involvement may be a key factor in helping FAU improve on its ranking with U.S. News & World Reports list of best colleges.

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