By Kelly Pyzik
Since the record-breaking basketball game last Tuesday, phone calls, emails and media requests have been flooding in to virtually every office of the College. The security office even received a call around 10 p.m. Tuesday night from the Wall Street Journal, just wanting to get in contact with anyone on campus. Director of Sports Information Ted Schultz, Director of Media Relations Stacey Schmeidel and Vice President for Communications Jim Reische have been fielding hundreds of requests for photos, videos and interviews with Jack Taylor ‘15.
“I’ve been doing this kind of work for a really, really long time and I’ve never seen a single person—I’ve seen teams get a lot of attention—getting that many interview requests over such a short period of time. It’s really remarkable,” Schmeidel said.
Administrators interacting with the media have been working hard to keep all Grinnell publicity positive and as beneficial for the College as possible. They have taken the opportunity of such an unprecedented amount of press attention to raise awareness of Grinnell College and its academic as well as athletic prowess.
“We worked really hard to take the story of 138 points and then say, ‘Here are some other numbers about Grinnell you might not know,’” Schmeidel said. “We talked about our average SAT scores and the numbers of students who do MAPs and many other numbers that really emphasize our academic excellence.”
Most articles concerning Tuesday night’s game focused only on Taylor and the men’s basketball team, but a few features, such as one on Forbes.com, expanded further to talk about all aspects of the College and its academic prestige. The College has gained name recognition on a global scale.
“This has gotten Grinnell’s name out to places and in ways that it has never reached before, most likely. We don’t usually get calls from Australia wanting to know about anything that’s going on here,” Reische said.
In the past two weeks of media coverage, Grinnell has gained some contacts that may be helpful in the future. This includes a Grinnell parent who works at Talk of the Nation and a Grinnell alum who works at All Things Considered, both National Public Radio programs. The publicity could also have a positive effect on alumni.
“Particularly at a time when we’re talking to our alums about ways to be more engaged and support the College, to see Grinnell mentioned in a favorable way locally, nationally and internationally is a great point of pride for quite a few alums and trustees,” Reische said. “People are really pleased.”
For several years, the College has been monitoring the amount of activity on the grinnell.edu homepage and last Wednesday saw a record amount of web traffic that far surpassed any day previously recorded.
“Clearly, there were a lot of people interested in Grinnell and they were coming to the website to learn more,” said Director of Admissions Doug Badger.
The College is hoping that the media attention will increase the number and diversity of student applicants in future years. Schmeidel used to work for Davidson College and after their team made a surprise run in the NCAA basketball tournament in 2008, they saw admissions visits go up by 25 percent in a year when the economy caused a 25 percent decrease at most other schools.
For many students who are on the fence about applying to Grinnell, this claim to fame may sway them to send in the application. For others who have already decided to apply, Grinnell may now have moved up their priority list.
Since last Tuesday, the admissions office has been receiving dozens of phone calls and emails from high school counselors all over the country wanting to know more about Grinnell. This shift likely means more counselors, teachers and parents will recommend high school seniors to look into Grinnell College, and if those students have now heard of Grinnell, they are more likely to do so.
Most of all, it is hoped that the attention to the College’s athletic program will interest academically high-achieving student-athletes in applying to Grinnell.
“Every year, there are some students who face the dilemma where they have been excellent students and they’re excited about the intellectual component of their college experience, but they’re also talented athletes and are looking for a challenging athletic program,” Badger said. “It’s an opportunity to focus on the folks, going back through generations of coaches and athletes, who have developed a really strong athletic program here. It’s a piece of Grinnell that doesn’t often get featured outside of campus.”
Schmeidel said the record is a demonstration of why Grinnell should appeal to some student-athletes.
“Given that we are a Division III institution, the athletes here most likely are not going to go on to professional careers,” Schmeidel said. “The ability to bring in people who have athletic talent, but also academic talent, is considerable. Those are students to whom athletics matter and who want to play for a winner, but also want to know we have a great academic program. This is a great demonstration for them of why they might want to consider Grinnell.”