By Isaiah Rosario, Assistant Sports Editor
Saint Peter’s University — what else is there to say? The Peacocks have been the talk of the country since beating the number two ranked University of Kentucky 85-79 in the first round of March Madness. Saint Peter’s success does not stop there.
In the second round of March Madness, the Peacocks defeated number seven ranked Murray State 70-60 in the Round of 32. In the Sweet 16, many across the nation believed that their time dancing was coming to an end. Even though many doubted the Peacocks, they kept their heads high and rallied together to defeat 3 seeded Purdue 67-64 in the Sweet 16.
Unfortunately, two days later, the Peacocks were defeated by the Tarheels of North Carolina, ending their Cinderella story with a score of 69-49.
But the success of an underfunded, purely passion-driven team is something that will never be forgotten across the country. The Peacocks were the first team in NCAA history to advance to the Elite 8 as a 15-seed and the first team in MAAC history to ever even go past the second round.
Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball at the MAAC, Jordan Confessore, spoke to the Quadrangle about what this magical run from Saint Peter’s does for the MAAC.
“It does a tremendous amount of things for the MAAC,” Confessore said. “Having a team compete at this level comes with a lot of exposure. Nationally, the entire nation was rallying behind Saint Peter’s, especially after their first win but as they went further and further into the tournament.”
This run by Saint Peter’s was incredible for their school, basketball team, and athletic program but with this run comes tremendous publicity for the MAAC conference.
“[This run] says a whole lot for the MAAC, whether it be exposure and financial implications that come with winning in the tournament as well,” Confessore said. “This has been quite an incredible run for the Saint Peter’s team and it’s been awesome for the MAAC.”
With winning also comes financial implications. According to ESPN, the 2022 run from Saint Peter’s brought the MAAC 8.1 million dollars over the next 6 years and $1.3 million annually. MAAC Commissioner, Richard J. Ensor, explained to the Quad in an email the specifics of the financial situation of this historic run.
“The MAAC has a bylaw that details how NCAA revenue is handled including increases in the performance fund distribution,” Ensor wrote. “It has been applied in the past when Siena and Manhattan provided additional units through their success in the NCAA championship.”
Ensor also expects the financials will help assist with the overall expansion of MAAC services including staffing.
Speaking of staffing, Saint Peter’s is losing fan favorite, head coach Shaheen Holloway as he agreed to terms to return back to his roots in South Orange, New Jersey, to coach at Seton Hall on March 31. Seton Hall officially introduced Holloway as their new head coach after leading the Peacocks to a historic run to the Elite Eight. Ensor also noted to the Quad in an email that he believed that even if the Peacocks did not advance as far as they did, his move to South Orange was inevitable.
“I expect Shaheen was headed to Seton Hall without the success the team achieved being a factor, I’m sure it may have impacted his new contract’s salary,” Ensor wrote.
Although the move was expected and disheartening for some Peacock fans, this Elite 8 run helped their program possibly grab a strong pool of candidates to help their program stay afloat and remain hopeful for another shot at Big Dance.
“As for [Saint Peter’s University], the reality is that most MAAC schools can not match the salary and other benefits that Big East schools pay their coaches so it’s not unusual to see coaches leave … The good news for [Saint Peter’s University] is that the investment is made in the facility and other planned improvements, and the success of the team this year will assist in them securing another strong coach,” Ensor wrote. “The applicant pool numbers and quality improve when success is achieved on the court and with the former coach’s career trajectory.”
The great amount of exposure that the MAAC and Saint Peter’s University acquired comes as a massive publicity boost for all schools at the MAAC conference. Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Manhattan College, Marianne Reilly spoke about what this run does for the MAAC and Manhattan College.
“It helps [the MAAC] get a little bit more national recognition,” Reilly said. “As you probably already know, the website crashed for St. Peter’s, they were just off the charts as far as social media goes. People are curious, they want to know, well, who is this team? Where are they located? … I think it’s an exciting time for the institution that makes it.”
According to an NBC Newscast, applications to be admitted into Saint Peter’s are already up 56 percent since the beginning of their March Madness run. With the rise of publicity, name dropping and success in a place as big as March Madness, Reilly predicts high school athletes will begin to look more into MAAC programs for athletics.
“Whenever you win, it creates an aura that people are curious about. When they win, they will come,” Reilly said. “It’s really interesting, having been part of the building process and watching them when recruiting becomes a little easier and sometimes even more strategic because now you get to choose who you want on your team. They’re all coming to you because they all want to be a part of a winning program. When you have consistency in winning, that will happen.”
Manhattan has seen its fair share of winning and publicity with the success of last year’s 2021 MAAC softball champions.
“The fact that we won last year in softball definitely helps us advance and tells our story,” Reilly said. “When your coach and you are recruiting, you can tell that story to recruits. Everybody wants to be part of a winner and just makes recruiting a little bit easier.”
This run by Saint Peter’s helps show that with determination, and belief in yourself and your teammates you are able to achieve anything and that is what Saint Peter’s proved.
“As much as we compete against each other throughout the year in all of our sports, we root for each other when we are at this point, how could you not,” Reilly said. “For a school like St. Peters, which is a small school, very similar in size to [Manhattan College] it makes you realize that, hey, you know, with a couple of breaks here or there, you do catch lightning in the bottle every once in a while. If it can happen, it can happen to anybody.”
Although all of this talk has been about men’s basketball, it does not shy away from the fact people will look at the MAAC program as a whole. During the March Madness games, screens next to the bench displayed the conference in which the team was from. Google Trends shows a spike in searches for “MAAC” in the month of March. When success comes in one sport in the MAAC, it also seems to filter down to other sports on campuses across the MAAC.
“When there are eyes on Saint Peter’s, they start looking [for] what league is Saint Peter’s in, they are in the MAAC … I do think that that will filter down to some degree to the other sports because with all that exposure in the eyes of this conference,” Confessore said. “I think that it’ll definitely cause some interest that might not have been there already or some people that weren’t as familiar will understand how great this league actually is.”
Despite the historic run from Saint Peter’s, earlier in the year, the MAAC, unfortunately, lost Monmouth University to the Colonial Athletic Association. With brand recognition that came from the run, it helped assist incoming schools’ fanbases for something to look forward to.
“Brand recognition may assist incoming schools in exciting their fan bases,” Ensor wrote. “The schools the MAAC seeks to secure typically are very aware of the quality of the MAAC sports operations across all championships. They are also usually aware of the MAAC’s focus on basketball, that we operate a joint championship in Atlantic City on a neutral court and of the MAAC’s extensive broadcasting agreement with ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN3, and ESPN+. The MAAC only seeks to add schools with strong academic and athletic commitments.”