Accurate? Probably not. But the figure it came up with put Xavier in the same place as its academic achievements and on-the-court abilities—among the nation’s elite. Xavier ranked No. 20 on the list with a perceived value of $10.7 million, prompting the magazine to note that, “The Musketeers are the most valuable mid-major basketball program in the country.”
While the department of athletics is constantly fighting the “mid-major” label—and being ranked among the top 20 is a good argument against being a “mid” anything—it was more than willing to accept being lumped into the same ranking as some of the sport’s longtime powers.
“As you look around at the variety of tools people use to evaluate and rank programs,” says director for athletics Mike Bobinski, “if we rank in the top 20 of any of those, we look at it as a positive and we’ll take it. But the reality is, we’re not so sure that’s a thorough or complete study. We don’t spend $10 million on our basketball program. The other reality is, on the scale of top to bottom, there was a financial difference of two and a half times.”
The values (see sidebar), according to Forbes, were based upon what the programs contribute to four primary beneficiaries: their university (money that goes into the institution for academic purposes), their athletic department (net profits), their conference (from tournament revenue) and the local community (incremental spending by visitors).
The program provides money to the University in the form of 12 full-ride scholarships and has brought in more money to the Atlantic 10 Conference than any other team—Xavier’s been in the NCAA or NIT tournaments nine times in the 12 years it’s been in the conference. But what makes Xavier so financially valuable, according to Forbes, is “due in large part to its lucrative seat licensing program.” The magazine values the seat license program, in which fans pay a premium to be granted season tickets, at $4 million annually.
That money, though, doesn’t go toward the department of athletics’ net profits, says Bobinski, but rather goes toward paying debt on the construction of the Cintas Center.
Even though the rankings are closer to an estimate than an audit, they continue the litany of praise for the program. In October, Basketball Times magazine ranked Xavier No. 9 on its list of top 10 programs in the United States for the quality of the program both on and off the court. The magazine does its rankings once every five years, and Xavier, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina were the only teams to make every list since 1997.
Also, in May, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced all 16 of the athletic programs at Xavier met its new academic guidelines—and nine of the programs had perfect scores.
“Anytime you get mentioned in rankings like that, it creates a critical mass around the program,” says Bobinski. “We have to go head to head with those other programs in recruiting and this helps avoid widening that gap. But all of this is something that’s been earned over a long period of time. We’ve been on a 25-year upward trajectory, and I don’t see that stopping.”