In 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a “Hail Mary” touchdown pass that gave the Eagles a nationally televised win over vaunted Miami and earned the team a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
The school felt the impact of “The Miracle in Miami” far beyond the gridiron. Two years after the improbable win, Boston College saw a 30% increase in student applications.
It’s too early to say if the University of Minnesota’s historic victory over Penn State last Saturday will bring similar results, but all the attention the school has received through local and national news reports and an explosion of posts on social media in the past three days “can’t hurt,” said Jake Ricker, public relations director for the U.
“At the bar, at the water cooler, everybody is talking about the University of Minnesota,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of positivity and attention. This is a program that has waited awhile to take its turn at the top, and it’s taking its turn right now.”
Students clad in maroon and gold had an extra bounce in their steps Monday as they walked through the campus, said Taylor Larick, a finance major from Des Moines who plans to graduate in the spring. Janet Nguyen, a junior from Rochester, Minn., said the Gophers’ 31-26 win over No. 4 Penn State — the first home win over a top-five ranked team since 1977 — will be a big selling point for future students.
“It’s one thing to advertise the U as a Division I school, but even better when your team is playing well,” she said. “This is a huge morale boost.”
At 9-0 for the first time since 1904 and a trip to the Rose Bowl in sight, the Gophers’ success has generated “community and pride” on campus, said student Katy Briggs, who is majoring in communications and theater arts. And it’s generating an uptick in interest from fans wanting to buy products from the Minnesota Alumni Market, which features only products made by U graduates. On Monday, fans were stopping in and calling to inquire about buying Gopher license plates and items such as the “Rouser Music” necktie, wool blankets and other products that display the maroon and gold spirit.
“There has been a flurry today,” said Lisa Huber, senior director of marketing and partnerships with the alumni association. “It’s exciting. We are thrilled from the energy that has come from this.”
The big win has generated lots of buzz on social media. The football team’s Twitter account has seen 9.2 million impressions — the number of times a tweet showed up in a user’s timeline — 18,700 retweets and 133,600 likes on Twitter in the past seven days. For the entire month of September, the account had 10.3 million impressions, 7,600 retweets and 76,800 likes on Twitter.
Several of their all-time, top-performing posts on Twitter and Instagram came from this past weekend. Web traffic is up, too. GopherSports.com saw about 75% more visitors than the previous week and the football page within the site saw more than double the number of page views as the previous week, the University of Minnesota Athletic Department said.
As the U revels in the national spotlight, there is optimism that Minnesota might experience the “Flutie Effect.” The term was coined after Flutie’s big touchdown and refers to an increase in exposure and prominence of an academic institution as result of its athletic success.
That happened at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Applications surged 45% between 1983 and 1986 as the school enjoyed basketball success. Northwestern University found that the number of applications rose 21% after winning the Big Ten Championship in football in 1996, according to a study by Richard Chung of the Harvard Business School.
When a school rises from mediocre to great on the gridiron, applications increase by 18.7%, he wrote in the paper, “The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics,” published in the 2013 edition of Marketing Science.
“Overall, athletic success has a significant long-term goodwill effect on future applications and quality,” Chung wrote.
Another study found that football and basketball success significantly increases the quantity of applications to a school, with estimates ranging from 2% to 8% increases for the top 20 football schools and the top 16 basketball schools each year.
Ricker said it will take time for the U to see any tangible results in terms of increased interest, applications and donations.
But one thing is certain: “It will put us in the map,” Briggs said.