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NCAA basketball bid means more cash for Loyola

Loyola University Maryland’s online campus bookstore typically sells between two and five items per day. In the past week, as the school’s basketball team prepares for its first men’s NCAA basketball tournament appearance since 1994, they’ve sold about 300 pieces of apparel.

Baltimore resident Katherine Cornell buys a Loyola Greyhounds championship T-shirt for her husband from Loyola junior Maria Mitidieri, a book seller at the Barnes & Noble on campus.

Inside the store, things have also heated up since Loyola won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title on March 5. On Thursday, the No. 15 seed Greyhounds take on the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in Pittsburgh.

“The past week and a half, we have seen our normal sales for this time of year more than double,” said Jennifer Wood, Loyola’s director of campus services. Though that includes all items, the store doesn’t sell a lot of books this time of year, she said.

What they have been selling a lot of is apparel — both basketball-related and general Loyola gear.

The store has sold about 560 championship-related T-shirts and hats, bringing in revenue of $11,300 in the past week, Wood said. On Tuesday they launched a new shirt commemorating the team’s 21 victories during the regular season — a program record — and are expecting “Road to 68” shirts on Thursday, she said.

“We’re trying to figure it out as we go,” she said. “We don’t want to overbuy and really mess ourselves up.”

Katherine Cornell, 33, of Baltimore stopped into the campus bookstore on Tuesday to add to the booming sales: She was buying a shirt for her husband, Kevin Chesterton, to wear at the game in Pittsburgh.

Chesterton, a 1999 graduate of the university, and three college friends have been going on March Madness trips since 2005. This year, they were planning to go to Nashville, Tenn.

“They rerouted their trip for the Greyhounds,” she said.

Nicole DeGregoris was also browsing through the store — but she had already bought gear earlier in the week.

DeGregoris, a junior from Long Island, said she bought a championship shirt and mailed it to her brother, who will be starting at Loyola next year.

“I can’t be more happy,” she said. “The entire student body here was ecstatic to hear that they won. The [Loyola] community got even closer through this.”

The school also had no difficulty finding homes for their 500 allotted game tickets.

The Office of Student Activities raffled 150 tickets off to students, who for $80 — a ticket to Thursday’s game is $78 —received a ticket and a round-trip bus, said Ryan Eigenbrode, Loyola’s director of athletic communications.

More than 1,000 people, including fans and parents of students, requested the remaining 350, he said.

While it’s been almost two decades since the Greyhounds went to the Big Dance, it’s been almost as long — since 1995 — since two MAAC teams have made it. Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., joined Loyola, but the Gaels lost to Brigham Young University Tuesday night in the tournament’s first round.

Even with Iona’s loss, having two MAAC teams in the tournament means more money for all 10 conference schools.

In 2011, the NCAA split $180.5 million among the 31 Division I conferences, with $1.9 million going to MAAC.

That money comes from a basketball distribution fund and is based on performance, with the funds divided by conference based on how many times a team of theirs appeared in the tournament over a rolling six-year period.

Teams earn a sum of money, called a unit, for each appearance, excluding the championship game. One unit was worth $239,664 last season, according to the NCAA website.

This season, MAAC will earn units based on both Loyola and Iona’s performance.

Though the NCAA encourages all conferences to divide the money evenly among its members, each conference can set its own policies. The MAAC distributes evenly to all of its 10 schools.

In addition to the fund payout and apparel sales, making the tournament brings a value that’s hard to quantify: attention.

“We’ve just had a tremendous response in coverage from the Baltimore community,” Eigenbrode said. “The sports media and the media in general in Baltimore really have adopted us.”

Loyola is the only team from Maryland in the tournament.

If the team continues to win, it can expect coverage to grow accordingly, and a win Thursday night could mean between $500,000 and $750,000 in “exposure value for a ‘shock the world type victory,’” said Eric Wright, president and executive director of research of Joyce Julius & Associates, an Ann Arbor, Mich., company that measures the value of sports sponsorships.

The Greyhounds are about a 17-point underdog against the Buckeyes.

If the team advances to the third round of the tournament, they’ll get coverage either way, Wright said.

“Then the story gets legs, because everyone is covering the team, following the next game,” he said. “Win or lose in that game, they’re going to get a lot of coverage.”