With last season’s unprecedented success, Stanford football and the University by extension received tremendous national exposure and publicity. Administrators say, however, that it has been difficult to quantify the benefits accrued to Stanford from its accomplishments on the field.
“Stanford was being held out to the nation as a shining example of an institution that focuses on excellence among its student-athletes — on the field, court, classroom and laboratory,” wrote Martin Shell, vice president for development, in an e-mail to The Daily. “I have to believe that some very real benefits are accruing to the University because of this.”
Though gift support to Stanford increased in the first five months of the fiscal year starting Sept. 2010, Shell cited the improving economy, the stock market and The Stanford Challenge fundraising campaign as the primary causes for this growth. He said athletic success in multiple sports led to intangible gains.
“[The week] was quite special,” Shell said, referring to victories in women’s basketball over the University of Connecticut and men’s basketball over UC-Berkeley in the days leading up to the BCS Orange Bowl game.
“The spectacular Orange Bowl victory came the next night,” Shell said. “Then, two days after the football team returned to campus, [redshirt sophomore quarterback] Andrew Luck announced that he is remaining on The Farm to complete the academic work toward his degree. From a national exposure standpoint, it was a remarkable sports week for the Cardinal.”
The publicity generated by the culmination of the football season is difficult to measure. One potential gauge was hits on Stanford’s homepage, which received increased activity coinciding with the Orange Bowl.
“On average, we get 45,000 hits a day at Stanford’s homepage,” said Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president for university communications. “On the day of the Orange Bowl, we got 85,000 hits. That’s just the homepage, not gostanford.com or the Orange Bowl website. It’s hard to say exactly what information they were looking for, but it’s clear that the Orange Bowl doubled our homepage traffic.”
Arguably attracting even more publicity than the Orange Bowl victory was Luck’s announcement that he would stay at Stanford for another season.
“On the day that Andrew Luck announced that he would finish his degree at Stanford, there were over 1,000 different articles on Google News by the end of the day, and he was the number one Internet search term for that day,” Lapin said. “That’s remarkable exposure for the University, especially considering the positive reaction by sportswriters and other pundits.”
Stanford’s appearance in the Orange Bowl had fiscal benefits as well, but these gains were not as high as many expected. The revenue from the game will be distributed among the schools of the Pac-10 Conference.
“The money isn’t necessarily the windfall that people think it is, but we’ve got a lot of good national attention, with East Coast media coverage and nationally televised games,” athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. “That’s great to promote Stanford’s national brand.”
While the enthusiasm surrounding the football team’s success is difficult to correlate with donations, Shell said that season ticket sales increased by 12 percent this season.
“Based on the number of new accounts and traffic at the ticket site, I trust there will be an increase in sales this coming season as well,” Bowlsby said.
With a consensus top-25 recruiting class for next season, Bowlsby said he has every expectation that the Cardinal’s run of success shall continue going forward. He hesitated, however, to characterize Stanford as a “football factory.”
“That’s not consistent with the way we do things,” he said. “Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and his staff demonstrated this season that you can put of a team of academic achievers in the classroom together and have tremendous success on the field.”