Basketball boon for VCU

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – VCU is back in the big dance for the second year in a row, beating Drexel Monday night, ensuring an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last year's magical Final Four run forever changed this university.

Folks are no longer saying VCU-who? We dug up the numbers from last year's basketball boon, and tonight we can show you measurable ways the Final Four frenzy gave VCU a new outlook.

VCU is headed back to the NCAA Tournament, back in the big dance for the second year in the row.

"We got the best fans in the country, everybody came out in their black and gold," said VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart.

It's déjà vu for VCU's president Michael Rao. He tells us the glow from last year's magical run hasn't even worn off yet.

RAO: "Where ever I go I continue to have people say to me, you know, how about that basketball team? And they're really excited about what it brought to VCU but more of what it brought to the whole region."
RACHEL: "How to do quantify that exposure?"
RAO: "I'm not sure you can ever put enough value on the marketing. I mean we've had numbers out there like 15 million."

But you can see the results when you look at the number of freshman applications for next year. More than 15,000 people applied for the fall semester. That's up from just over 13,000 at the same time last year.

"There are not just more applications you also have applicants who would probably have never considered the university before," Rao said.

And donations to VCU have spiked. Gifts to the athletic program are up 376%. Overall giving to the university bounced up 40%.

There are even 25 new requests to start alumni chapters for VCU around the country. Though Rao believes one gift to the university was priceless.

"I think that one of the greatest things I saw last spring is that it brought a sense of pride that I hadn't seen yet. I'd been here 2 years but I hadn't seen that feeling. That sense of pride and now you feel it and it's very, very strong throughout the entire community," he said.

Before their tournament run last year- only 29 stores in Richmond sold VCU merchandise- this year there are 66. VCU finds out who and where the team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.  

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