Media and Public Relations

Where Innovation Is Tradition

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Mar. 14, 2007

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FAIRFAX, Va., March 14, 2007—With the first tip-off of the 2007 NCAA basketball tournament set to begin, George Mason University knows first-hand that success at this annual competition of the top teams in the nation can have a lasting impact on those that do well, especially, according to president Alan G. Merten, “when you are an underdog and no one is expecting you to last beyond one game.”

In the case of George Mason, the Patriots shocked the experts and pundits by scratching and hustling their way to the tournament’s coveted Final Four, and, in doing so, generating unprecedented positive attention from sports and non-sports fans alike throughout the country and even from overseas.

“Easily this was a time in our institution’s history like we have never known,” says Merten. “Even those at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) itself told us they had never seen a college or university generate as much enthusiasm and attention as did Mason last year.”

Following a regular season record of 27-8 in 2006, Mason finished in a tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association and, as a result, received a last-minute at-large bid to participate in the NCAA tournament. The Patriots were then matched against one nationally ranked team after another – upsetting each one – until its drive toward the tournament’s championship ended with a loss to University of Florida. The Gators, ultimately, went onto win the NCAA title.

“All of us look back at last year’s experience with a great deal of pride. Coach (Jim) Larranaga and the team brought all of the university’s constituencies together and, in doing so, raised the overall profile of our institution in ways we had previously only dreamed about,” says Merten. “It is impossible to put a precise figure on the amount of free publicity we have received in the past year. But it has been enormous.”

Merten notes, however, that there are key areas where the benefits have been documented. They include admissions, alumni relations, and development/fundraising. Following is a partial listing of specific benefits in these areas as a result of Mason’s Final Four appearance:


  • Freshmen applications have increased by 20 percent.
  • The number and size of campus tours for prospective students and parents nearly tripled.

Alumni Relations

  • Mason alumni who registered with the online alumni directory have grown by more than 52 percent.
  • There is a 24 percent increase in alumni e-mail addresses now registered on record.
  • There is a 25 percent increase in active alumni.


  • Mason received more than $23.2 million in new gifts and pledge payments compared to $19.6 million the previous year.
  • Donations to athletic programs increased by 25 percent.
  • General scholarship support nearly tripled.
  • Unrestricted gifts to the university increased by nearly 45 percent.

Mason officials look for these numbers to increase. “The response to our Final Four experience could not be more positive. The greater interest in our institution better enables us to strengthen our primary mission – to provide our students with the highest quality education we can,” says Merten.

About George Mason University
George Mason University has a total student enrollment of 30,000 students and is the fifth-largest residential institution in the state. Located near Washington, D.C., in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor, George Mason boasts the first doctoral programs in bioinformatics, computational science and conflict resolution, and its economics program is the only one in the world with two Nobel Prize recipients. Mason’s School of Law, founded in 1979, is recognized by “U.S. News and World Report” as one of the top 50 law schools in the United States.