The Blue Raider basketball team’s stunning upset over Michigan State in the 2016 NCAA Tournament attracted global attention to the University.
One Shining Moment
Our University received untold attention around the nation during March Madness when the 15th-seeded Blue Raider men’s basketball team scored its stunning upset, 90-81, over No. 2 seed Michigan State in a NCAA Tournament bracket-buster. The resulting media and social media spotlight on MTSU and our community was priceless.
It seemed like almost everyone, everywhere, was True Blue, if only for a few moments.
Social reach tracked by MTSU’s Division of Marketing and Communications hit an all-time high of 167,025,273 people during March 18–21.
#MTSU was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter leading up to the final seconds of the win over the Spartans.
There were 60,000-plus mentions about MTSU in three days, 300 percent more than the University’s monthly average of 15,000 mentions.
MTSU’s win was tweeted by such notable influencers as Magic Johnson (2.9M reach); ESPN (25.7M);
Wall Street Journal (10.3M); Sports Illustrated (1.4M); MLB pitcher and Murfreesboro native David Price (1.3M); Getty Images Sport (978K); Dick Vitale (822K); Yahoo! Sports (381K); and the Denver Broncos (294K).
MTSU’s brand reach on social media extended worldwide as a result of the game to areas where it doesn’t usually register, like Liechtenstein, Kenya, Norway, Andorra, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Vitale, the iconic ESPN basketball analyst who had picked Michigan State to win it all, called it “one of the all-time shockers.” The game also was deemed the biggest upset in tournament history by the likes of Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
The Spartans were favored by oddsmakers to win the national title, and MTSU was a 16- to 17-point underdog going into the game. Seven other No. 15 teams had registered wins over No. 2 seeds, but none beat a No. 2 that was so highly regarded. All five Middle Tennessee starters scored in double figures: Reggie Upshaw (21 points), Giddy Potts (19), Darnell Harris (15), Perrin Buford (15) and Jaqawn Raymond (11).
In interviews beamed around the world in the afterglow of the upset, Coach Kermit Davis became an instant media superstar and talked about the importance that the win had in bolstering MTSU’s brand. He anticipated that a lingering benefit of the victory would be increased visibility of the University not just on athletics, but also academics.
This group of student-athletes also put MTSU on an exclusive list of only seven programs to win an NCAA Tournament game AND boast an NCAA graduation rate of 100 percent. Additionally, the Blue Raiders have the most wins (123) of any Division I school in the state of Tennessee the past five years and have captured five conference titles in the past seven seasons.
Coach Davis likened athletics to being “the front porch of the University” and expressed hopes that the student-athlete success on the court “puts a brighter bulb over the door and shines some attention on our faculty, our academic programs, and our students.”
The University’s marketing team produced new TV commercials, secured air time during the NCAA second round across Tennessee, and upped advertising on social media and electronic billboards as part of MTSU’s Take a Closer Look campaign. The latter encourages students
and parents to dig deeper into the University’s many academic attributes.
One of MTSU’s newly added catch phrases became: “Our team may have busted your tournament bracket. But that’s not the first time Middle Tennessee State University exceeded expectations.”
Coach Davis said he enjoys helping spread the True Blue message, including to students or parents who may not have ever considered MTSU. And I’m happy to say he recently signed an eight-year contract extension through 2023–24.
It’s impossible to put a price tag on the extensive exposure on varied platforms that the historic NCAA victory brought to the University.
Blue Raider Duo Makes Olympics
Former Middle Tennessee standout John Ampomah and current Blue Raider runner Janet Amponsah qualified for the Olympic games in Rio for their native Ghana after hitting the IAAf qualifying standards at the Soga-Nana Memorial meet. Ampomah, who finished third at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the javelin and second at the Senior African Championships, broke his own national record with a throw of 83.09 meters (272-7) at Cape Coast Stadium. Amponsah, who is labeled the Ghanaian sprint queen, qualified in the 200 meters after running a personal-best 22.99 seconds. Amponsah was also the anchor leg in Ghana’s 4x100-meter relay, which qualified for Rio in a national-record 42.67 seconds.
Men’s Track Finishes 18th in Nation
The Middle Tennessee men’s outdoor track team capped off an exciting season by finishing 18th nationally. The Blue Raiders’ 18th-place finish was the second-highest outdoor finish in program history behind the 2003 squad’s 17th-place finish.
- During the Spring 2016 semester,
12 of 15 teams had a semester team grade point average of 3.0 or higher; 90 student-athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+ GPA), and 30 had a perfect 4.0. Overall, 174 of 304 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (57%).
- Outfielder Blake Benefield, named to the Louisville Slugger All-American Baseball team, became just the fifth freshman All-American in program history and 16th player overall.
- Former Blue Raider golfer Kent Bulle (2006–10), who plays on the Web.com Tour, saw a dream come true as he qualified for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. He is only the second Blue Raider to ever play in the U.S. Open.
- For the second consecutive year, Middle Tennessee men’s tennis has notched the No. 25 recruiting class in the country, according to tennisrecruiting.net.
- Max Rauch, Tom Moonen and Nicolas Buitrago all join the team this fall.
- Eliud Rutto was named Conference USA Male Track Athlete of the Year, and fellow junior Elizabeth Dadzie was voted C-USA Field Athlete of
the Year by conference coaches.
- The MTSU women’s golf team won its second straight Conference USA tournament, and Chris Adams was tabbed the C-USA Coach of the Year.
- Pitcher Kelci Cheney, an Exercise Science major with a 3.74 GPA, was named to the 2016 Conference USA Softball All-Academic Team in May.
- The baseball team (3.329 GPA) and men’s tennis team (3.385) each repeated as C-USA Sport Academic Award winners for 2015–16 year.
- The Tennessee Sports Writers Association voted MTSU guard
- Brea Edwards their women’s basketball Player of the Year.
- Blue Raider soccer standout Kelsey Brouwer was MTSU’s nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.