Wright State’s Tyler Frierson (33) during the first half of the Horizon League championship game vs. Green Bay. Brian Sevald/CONTRIBUTED

Tournament keeps Wright State in national spotlight

Victories for college basketball teams can often lead to off-the-court success for schools, something Wright State University’s leaders say their institution needs as it rebounds from financial and legal issues.

Wright State’s women’s basketball team is the only squad in the Dayton region this year that will play in an NCAA tournament, a year after the men’s team lost in the first round of March Madness. The women’s tournament, which had its selection Monday night, starts Friday, according to the NCAA.

» RELATED: Dayton has hosted more NCAA tournament games than any other city

Just last week, Wright State received “positive media” coverage of its basketball teams equivalent to around $3 million in ad spending, said spokesman Seth Bauguess, who uses a tool to translate earned media into projected ad dollars. That figure along with potential tournament wins ahead, officials said, can bring together a college that continues to deal with ongoing financial problems and the fallout from a 20-day faculty strike.

“It’s unbelievably exciting. This is the best trajectory our men’s and women’s teams have been on here,” said athletic director Bob Grant. “I think we’re building on the positive exposure it gave the university last year at a time (WSU) really needed it.”

Wright State is in the midst of recovering from years of overspending that drained the school’s reserve fund and forced its leaders to reduce spending by around $53 million in fiscal year 2018. Tensions also flared on campus close to the start of the year when members of Wright State’s faculty union went on strike, forcing the school to temporarily cancel some classes.

The positivce attention Wright State will get from postseason basketball can change the national conversation about the college though, Grant said. The WSU men’s team is headed to its first ever National Invitation Tournament this year and they’ll be joined by the University of Dayton men’s team.

Wright State’s men’s basketball team will take on Clemson University in the NIT at 7 p.m. today and the game will be broadcast on ESPN-U. It will mark the eighth time this season Wright State has had a basketball game broadcast on national television, which Grant said is the most in school history.

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Wright State has also suffered in recent years from a decline in enrollment. Wright State’s enrollment was expected to dip below 17,000 for the first time last fall since 2007 to around 16,224, nearly 3,550 below the school’s peak in 2010 when a transition from quarters to semesters started taking place, according to a fiscal year 2019 budget.

Trips to the NCAA tournament and the naitonal spotlight that come with them often lead to spikes in interest from potential future students.

Wright State saw an impact in 2007, as inquiries about the university spiked the following fall, Bauguess said. The University of Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight in 2014 resulted in a bump of 10,000 inquiries from prospective students, according to UD officials.

Though women’s college basketball doesn’t receive the same level of atttention as men’s teams do, WSU officials still expect it will have an impact.

“That’s always the hope,” Grant said. “I think there’s a definite correlation and with athletics as the front porch of the unviersity…I think it’s extremely important.”

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