One clear indication of a thriving athletic program is ticket sales. A large audience creates revenue, which can be used to improve athletic facilities that attract recruits who can make the team better — it’s a full cycle. The recent success of the men’s basketball team has heads turning, said Loyola’s Director of Ticket Operations Brian Day, adding that the men’s basketball team in particular has seen an increase in ticket sales.
“You can tell from our last year in the Horizon League and our first in the MVC [that ticket sales went up],” said Day. “Last year was our best year in 30 years, but you don’t see the fruits of that until the next year, and we can definitely see the effects now.”
As of Oct. 27, season ticket sales are already up 15 percent from the 2014-15 season, and single game ticket sales are up 136 percent over that date in 2014, according to Day.
It might not be a coincidence that the men’s basketball team experienced a successful season in the same year Steve Watson started his tenure as Loyola’s new athletic director. Watson has a reputation of turning programs around quickly. After three years as the athletic director at St. Bonaventure University, Watson watched the Bonnies’ men’s basketball team go from a .500 club — same amount of wins as losses — to winning the school’s first Atlantic-10 Conference title. He also oversaw the growth of St. Bonaventure’s women’s basketball team, which had a school-best 31-4 overall record and a trip to the Sweet 16 in the national tournament.
Watson said he left St. Bonaventure and came into a great program at Loyola, and he’s excited to see where he can take it.
“I think we are in a really good spot right now,” said Watson. “It starts with the coaches, and we have great coaches who talk about creating that culture [of winning] all the time. I didn’t expect [the men’s basketball team] to improve so rapidly from two years ago to last year. Was I surprised? Yeah, especially after those first couple of [losses against Tulane University and Michigan State University]. But there were signs it was going to get better soon.”
Many head coaches, general managers and athletic directors talk about how creating culture of winning within a program is almost as important as fielding a good team. The two go hand-in-hand, but without them coexisting, it’s hard to maintain success.
Loyola’s Athletic Department is attempting to add to the culture of winning that men’s volleyball has already created. The men’s volleyball team’s success seems to have had a trickle-down effect on the Ramblers’ other programs, with the women’s volleyball and men’s basketball teams showing improvement in the last two years.
But if one word described the men’s basketball team for the last 30 years, it would be mediocre. The Ramblers’ record since their last NCAA national tournament appearance in 1985 is 374-512. With a 24-13 record, last year was the best season for Loyola in that 30-year span. The Ramblers also won the College Basketball Invitational — the consensus third-best men’s basketball postseason tournament after the NCAA tournament and the National Invitation Tournament.
One team’s success can affect other teams in an athletic department, said Watson. He believes the success of one program can help foster the culture of winning, which every team needs to be successful. He used the men’s volleyball team as an example.
“[The men’s volleyball coaches] are really good at making everyone feel a part [of the program],” Watson said. “When we win the national championship, all the coaches, staff and the other student athletes feel like they’re winning, too. Success brings success.”
Don’t be surprised if you see other teams at Loyola finding more triumph soon.