How sports will put UVU on the map

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Photo by Jesse Sanchez

Let’s be honest, despite astronomical enrollment numbers, Utah Valley University isn’t that big of a school. With just six graduate degrees and certificates, UVU isn’t a place that’s left its mark across the board nationally in terms of academia. With about a quarter-century of being a four-year intuition, it’s still a young school. Once UVU gains national recognition, your degree gains recognition and value in job interviews across the nation. A quick way to gain national recognition for any university is for the men’s basketball team to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

In 2010 and 2011, Butler University made back-to-back runs to the National Championship Game, thanks to current Utah Jazz players Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack. Despite falling short of lifting the NCAA National Championship trophy, Butler gained the national recognition that comes with playing on a massive stage. According to Butler spokesman Marc Allan, the university’s applicant pool rose from 6,203 in 2009 to 9,368 applicants in 2011. The number has been over 10,000 every year since the deep tournament runs. Butler reported 12,938 applicants for the fall 2016 semester with an enrollment of 1,288 first-year students.

The Wichita State Shockers made a Final Four run in 2013 and an admissions spokesperson said there has been a noticeable rise in application numbers since the national exposure.

With UVU’s open enrollment policy, the university could grow exponentially leading to a possible change in the enrollment policy, a massive influx of cash from student fees or, best of all, lower student fees.

Outside of the state of Utah, when asked where UVU and Orem are, the most common response is, “Oh, next to BYU?” If UVU is to get out of the shadow of the Y on the mountain, it needs to leave its mark nationally.

Enter UVU men’s basketball. Consider the following scenario.

Come Selection Sunday in March, UVU has secured the WAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The world will be introduced to Utah Valley University on ESPN’s Tournament Selection Show. This is only the start.

As the nation delves into March Madness, illegal—yes, illegal—gambling pools will open in offices all over the nation as brackets are filled out on the clock. Each time someone fills out their bracket, they’ll come across a line that reads “Utah Valley.”

If the Wolverines draw similarly to 2016 WAC tournament champion CSU Bakersfield, they could receive a No. 15 seed, which suggests a much higher chance of advancing than a No. 16 seed. Just last year, No. 15 Middle Tennessee State beat No. 2 Michigan State.

As UVU is relatively unknown on the national stage, most people will skip over the Wolverines and take the No. 2 seed in the matchup without any thought besides mumbling, “Who’s Utah Valley?” However, coach Mark Pope and his squad have been well equipped for a tough matchup with a difficult out-of-conference schedule and advance out of the opening round with a major upset.

Thanks to the UVU men’s basketball team, when you walk into a job interview in June and the interviewer sees you went to Utah Valley their response could be, “I know that school. It busted my bracket.”