Chapel Hill, N.C. — The 10th-seeded Davidson Wildcats made a run all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to top-seeded Kansas Sunday night. It was the first Sweet 16 appearance for the school in nearly 40 years.
Calls to Davidson's admissions office spiked when the team made the Sweet 16, officials said.
Academic researchers say that just making it into the NCAA basketball tournament will boost freshman applications by 1 percent the next year. Sweet 16 schools – especially smaller, less-widely-known ones – see, on average, a 3 percent jump. The team that wins the championship sees an extra 8 percent.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has studied the Sweet 16 admission trend since 1986.
"There's not a great correlation between our success in any individual year on the court, or on the field, and what happens in the admissions that year or the year following," said Steve Farmer, admissions director at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The reason may be that UNC already has a lot of exposure. It drew 21,487 applicants this year. But for smaller schools, play in the NCAA means a big boost in interest.
At Davidson College, instead of receiving the usual one transfer application a day, the admissions office is getting around 12 since the school made the Sweet 16.
At Barton College in Wilson, more than 685,000 people watched the team's NCAA Division II championship-winning layup on YouTube last year. This year, admission officials have seen the number of applications double.