March Madness leads to economic impact in greater Boca Raton community

FAU’s historical season in the Final Four leads to increase in donors as well as business in the greater Boca Raton area.


Nicholas Windfelder

Photo of the NCAA March Madness Final Four logo inside NRG Stadium in Houston Texas.

Mary Rasura, Staff Writer

The success of FAU’s men’s basketball team in March Madness, making it all the way to the Final Four for the first time in school history, has led to tangible benefits for the university and greater Boca Raton area. 

There has been a 101% increase in the number of donors to the university and more than a 500% increase in the number of donors giving specifically to the Athletics Department compared to this same period of the previous year, according to university spokesperson Lisa Metcalf. 

“There has been approximately a 50 percent increase in giving to all areas of the university,” wrote Metcalf in an email. “The Florida Atlantic Alumni Association saw an increase in alumni memberships since the beginning of the NCAA tournaments as well with 315 new alumni memberships since March 1.” 

However, the true extent of the impact of the men’s basketball team’s success will take some time to be fully realized. University spokesperson Joshua Glanzer wrote that over the next few months, the impact of making it to the Final Four should be clearer. 

“On TV, you can’t pay for slots like that,” said Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca Raton economic development manager. “FAU was all over Times Square, so really just a major impact not just from an economic standpoint, but from a community standpoint. We all got behind FAU and your success.”

The prestige of the team’s success has brought recognition to not only the university, but also the greater Boca Raton area. 

Tom Vladimir is the owner of It’s Owl Time, an FAU-branded merchandise store. He is also an FAU alum and previous head coach of cross country and track. He stated that they have made over 12 times the amount in this March compared to last year. He also stated that they had the busiest 30 days in March in the history of owning the store.

“FAU’s a very seasonal business, of course, based on football season, the different seasons,” Vladimir said. “Basketball has never been a very big draw for FAU apparel in the past, usually it’s mostly football season. So it was a huge change to have, actually, basketball season was more popular than football season this year, which is the first time that’s ever happened.”

Biergarten is a Boca Raton bar and restaurant that hosted watch parties to support the team. General Manager Erik Brinkmann said this March was the busiest March they’ve ever had in 12 years of business. He said that they’re happy FAU did so well and that it was great for the school, students, bars, and community in Boca Raton. 

Matt Brown, publisher of Extra Points and a longtime sports writer who covers the intersection between college sports and higher education, stated that FAU is experiencing what is known as the “Flutie effect.” Named after quarterback Doug Flutie who led Boston College to a 1984 win over the University of Miami, this effect describes the increase in recognition for an American university after an unexpectedly successful sports run. 

Brown stated that there’s a broad consensus that it’s usually a short term boost in the number of applications a university will receive, there can be a boost in academic quality of the freshman class, and potentially a boost in alumni giving and alumni engagement. 

“It’s not a long term boost,” Brown said. “All other things being equal, that typically washes out a year or two after the run. But depending on the rest of the university’s goals and what they do with their marketing department, there are other things that can be done a year after.”

FAU has taken steps that could potentially increase the longevity, including signing Dusty May to a contract extension, Brown said.

“FAU has to make sure that people are still thinking about FAU, 36 weeks, six months from now, now that the news cycle has changed. And find ways to keep getting money out of basketball,” Brown said.

Mary Rasura is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @maryrasura.