Sports

After Magical March, Culture Change Comes to Loyola

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixLoyola men's basketball head coach Porter Moser teaches the incoming Class of 2022 how to act during a free throw.

Loyola men’s basketball coach Porter Moser is known as a tireless recruiter, and he continued to hit the recruiting trail this summer. But he wasn’t just trying to round out his roster; he was also enticing incoming Loyola students to jump on the bandwagon.

Moser went to two orientations for the incoming Loyola Class of 2022 — one in June and one in July — to build the fan base. Although he’s given the same orientation speech since 2013, when Loyola only had four winning seasons since 1986, there was a buzz among the hundreds of soon-to-be first-years that didn’t exist in the past.

Although he doesn’t have to try as hard to fill the Gentile Arena stands, Moser said he’ll continue to encourage students to come to games.

“I’m not changing who I am. I’m not changing my philosophy,” Moser said. “I am grassroots and want the students to know they [are] a big part of what we’re doing and they’re a big part of our success.”

The team’s successes are fueling more than just school spirit, though. The university, as a whole, is benefitting from the March Madness run.

The “Flutie Effect”

This increased interest in the team could be attributed to the “Flutie Effect.” The term dates back to 1984, when Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a last-second, game-winning touchdown to beat University of Miami 47-45 in what’s considered one of the greatest college football games in history.

Within two years of that game, Boston College saw a 30 percent increase in applications, according to a 2013 Forbes report.

The incoming Loyola Class of 2022 is the biggest in school history, with over 2,900 students enrolled for next school year — up 4.2 percent from the Class of 2021. The increased class size is due, in part, to the “Flutie Effect,” Loyola dean of admissions Erin Moriarty told The Phoenix.

The university will likely see the full effect of the Ramblers’ success next year because the NCAA Tournament happens late in the admission process, according to Moriarty.

The phenomenon also helps increase the exposure of the university’s athletics programs — not just men’s basketball. The Phoenix reported donations to the Loyola athletics department increased by 660 percent from March 1 to April 2 as a result of the Ramblers’ Cinderella run. Loyola Athletics couldn’t provide updated figures at the time of publication.

A Sense of Optimism

At both orientations Moser spoke at, which are mandatory for incoming students, he discussed the team’s successes last season, the “culture” surrounding the team and, as always, how students “make a difference” at home games.

Although the content was the same this year as it was in years past, the speeches seemed different. Moser’s “culture” now involves the success he worked seven years to achieve. Students listened as the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year spoke about what the students mean to his “culture.”

“I think … there were a bunch of students who didn’t know I was trying to fire them up [in previous years],” Moser said. “I had to educate them [about the program] … there was no education process going on [this year]. I think the perception has changed when you start talking about Loyola Chicago men’s basketball.”

Moser’s passion caught the attention of some incoming first-year students, including Audrey Woodward.

“He [was] probably the most enthusiastic speaker we had this whole time,” Woodward said.

Building the Fan Base

In March, the Loyola community rallied around the team. The Phoenix reported students, who didn’t pay much attention to sports, found themselves captivated by the Ramblers’ Final Four run, which ended with a 69-57 loss to University of Michigan March 31.

Current students weren’t the only ones finding themselves tuning in to the tournament because of the Ramblers. Incoming first-year students such as Robin Wilkinson said he didn’t pay much attention to sports before the Ramblers became the Cinderella of the NCAA Tournament.

Now Wilkinson said he’ll be following every Loyola sports team next year –– not just men’s basketball.

“You see all the energy around [and] what happens in sports and things like that. To think I’m going to be a part of that … is just awesome,” Wilkinson said. “I’m not a sports person, but I definitely can become one.”

While some students became interested in sports because of Loyola’s run, rising first-year Roxie Smith said the ability to rally around a successful sports program was a main reason she decided to attend Loyola next year.

“I had just started hearing about the basketball team when I was looking at going to Loyola, so … I was like ‘Oh, if I go there, I’ll have a good sports team to cheer for’,” Smith said. “That was one of the things that factored into my college decision.”

“You Make A Difference”

Though he only spoke at two of the nine orientations, Moser interacted with any student group he saw on campus throughout the summer.

Moser said he’s excited to have a new crew of students excited about Loyola basketball, especially since his Ramblers became the talk of college basketball in March. Although the season doesn’t start until Nov. 6, he said he’s ready to interact with the students in the days leading up to the home opener.

“We started this program seven years ago when there wasn’t much attention, so this is what you want … people are interested in this program,” Moser said. “That’s what I’ve been working so hard to [do] is make [the program] relevant.”

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Assistant Sports Editor

Abigail Schnable is from St. Louis and is majoring in print journalism with minors in biology and sports management. She’s a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues, as well as the English Premiere League. One of her favorite activities is to tease over-confident Cubs fans.

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