Could Ayn Rand be the Key to FGCU’s Success in the NCAA Tournament?

Economics professors at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers include Nikolai Wenzel, Carrie Kerekes, Bradley Hobbs and Gary Jackson. (photo credit: Business Observer)


Florida Gulf Coast University — a small college in Fort Myers, Florida, which had its first classes in 1997 and did not even field a sports team until 2001 — is in the midst of a surprising run in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and the key to this success might not be Coach Andy Enfield, but rather Ayn Rand and her book Atlas Shrugged.

As first reported by the Business Observer in 2011, FGCU’s economics department makes Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” required reading. Written in 1957, the book depicts the struggle of the heroic entrepreneur against a despondent society and government.

Just how valuable is a strong showing in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? As it happens, Butler, whose improbable run to the 2010 Final Four is still the stuff of legend, has studied this very question. Its near-championship run—it lost in the finals to Duke—generated precisely $639,273,881.82 in publicity for the university. That’s to say nothing of the increases in merchandise sales and charitable giving, or the 41 percent surge in applications.

FGCU didn’t need to commission any studies. It understands implicitly the crass commercial calculations that the NCAA promotes, against its own stated goals. FGCU recognized from the start that nothing would raise the young school’s profile like sports—men’s basketball in particular.

“I knew that the university would grow, and it will, as a result of the athletic program,” William Merwin, then the school’s president, said in an interview with the Naples Daily News in 2001, after the chief executive officer of a local agribusiness company donated $5 million for FGCU’s sports programs.

(h/t Deadspin)

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