Hockey National Championship or a Sweet 16 Appearance?

Jeff: With the sweet 16 approaching this weekend and BC seemingly light years away from making an appearance after this season, I wondered to myself would the casual BC fan rather have the basketball team make the sweet 16 or the hockey team win a National Championship?  And also, which would have a greater financial impact for BC?  Would the basketball team making the sweet 16 result in a greater increase in applications to Boston College or would a hockey National Championship?  Would the Flynn Fund get a larger bump in donations from the basketball success or the hockey success?

There is no science to answering these questions so all I could do was ask some fellow BC bloggers for their opinions.

Joe (Soaring to Glory): This is a tough one.  I love winning national championships in any of our sports, particularly hockey, which is one of our most exceptional programs.  Basketball, however, has a higher profile.  More people would be positively aware of Boston College sports if our school were to make a Sweet 16 run than by winning the hockey tournament.  The basketball big dance is on network TV and gets nice ratings; the hockey tournament will be partially broadcast on ESPN360 and gets far less attention.

As a fan, I will take the championship, but the success in basketball, though limited, might be the better overall deal for the program.

Raj (BCI contributor): As a die-hard basketball fan and a casual (at best) hockey fan, I would rather see the basketball season extended and have a sweet 16 appearance. I was in the minority at BC, following basketball as closely as I followed football, but I know that come March everyone's focus is on the NCAA Tournament. I haven't heard of any offices filling out a hockey bracket to see who wins. Also for me a berth into the sweet 16, means a good chance we could go to the final four. A final four trip for me is bigger than a orange bowl berth.  In addition basketball trumps because hockey is for the Northern Europeans and Canadians. Think about how disappointed the country was when the US Men's Basketball Team brought home bronze, vs. when the US Hockey team lost to Canada. (Too soon?)

I'm torn here, hockey championships at BC are huge for the school. It is our most successful sport, and New England loves its ice. In terms of potential though, I still think the sweet 16 is better for admissions, recruiting and the school as a whole.  It all comes down to visibility, and basketball just gets more pub than hockey. Hockey recruiting the school speaks for itself, we've built that brand.  Im not exactly sure how much alums donate to the hockey program for the Flynn Fund, but i'd be interested to see the numbers. In terms of basketball and the NCAA Tournament, i think the potential to reach students, recruits, and alums is far greater than the Hockey National Championship. Unfortunately BC didnt make the tournament this year, but BC Hockey secured a number 1 seed. If you check ESPN or SI's front page, none even mention the NCAA Hockey Championship on their site. Seedings were announced last night, and there is zero publicity.  With recruiting and reaching students nationwide, you have CBS showing all tourney games, and even now streaming games to your IPhone.  Even football recruits follow march madness, and I'm just guessing that those guys aren't gearing up for the Frozen Four. 

Can a majority of the public even name two NCAA hockey champions from the past 4 years. Vs naming final four teams from the past 2 years. Regionally hockey may have a case, but not nationally.

Mike (BCDraft): To me, this is a no-brainer—particularly for BC. 

The answer is clearly a National Championship in Hockey, a sport that BC has managed to dominate for the past decade.  National titles in one of the big four sports isn’t something to take lightly.   Yes, I know both baseball and hockey pale in comparison to football and basketball (and rank-order are different if you’re living in the south vs. northeast), but national titles are national titles.  Particularly those that are earned through a playoff and are not awarded via any sort of voting hulabaloo.

The reason I said "particularly" for BC is that we’ve been to the sweet sixteen before.  As I’m sure we’re all well aware, BC has the most wins in the NCAA in tournament history…for a team that has never appeared in the final four.   Now, you ask me if it would be bigger for BC to be in the final four or win the men’s hockey National Title again; well that’s another question.  I think I still say hockey—but not by much.  The Final Four is a pretty darn huge deal.   The sweet sixteen….bah.

Brian: Sweet 16 means nothing. Sure you live on for another weekend, but casual fans would hard pressed to name even 1/2 the teams that made the Sweet 16 two years ago. Heck, I probably couldn't even name half and I live and breathe college sports. The exposure from a Sweet 16 appearance is fleeting and a bit overstated.

To claim a college title in one of the top four team sports in the US is a much bigger deal. Plus hockey isn't some kinda BS non-revenue sport like bass fishing or wine tasting that schools like NC State and Virginia like to claim national championships in.

A hockey national title vs. a Final Four appearance is a much more fair fight, from both the fan and positive impact perspective.

Jeff: The views were a little more differing than I thought they would be.  I agree with the majority that as a fan, most would prefer a hockey National Championship.  When you win it all, you finish the season with a win.  Even if hokcey is a less popular sport among BC fans and alums, a Sweet 16 appearance still means the team finishes with a loss and you are left wondering 'what if' during the off-season.

As for financial impact, Brian makes a legitimate point that hockey is already a revenue generating sport unlike swimming, soccer, or baseball, but I don't think any or a significant amount of high school kids are applying to BC because of hockey success.  Does NCAA Tournament success in basketball have a positive impact on admissions?  Absolutely.  Ask Hampton University or George Mason.  Is BC helped with admissions by athletic success?  Absolutely.  We all know of the "Flutie Effect."

Donations to the Flynn Fund is probably the easiest thing to quantify and I would guess that this answer would be not completely one-sided, but still on the side of limited basketball success rather than a hockey championship.  

Making the sweet 16 is a big deal and I think some fans are forgetting that because BC was far from there this year while hockey is on track for the Frozen Four.  Had the question been Hockey National Championship vs. Basketball Final Four, it would not be close.  The basketball Final Four is huge.  BCS Bowl Game huge.  

What are your thoughts?

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