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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

More than just a game

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Colin Darland
The cast and crew of ESPN’s College Gameday made a stop in Tucson, Ariz. for the broadcast of the Arizona Wildcat’s matchup against the Washington Huskies on Saturday, January 28, 2012. Hundreds of fans lined up to watch the broadcast live in McKale Memorial Center at the University of Arizona. Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

The implications of Saturday’s ESPN GameDay matchup between Arizona and Washington go well beyond the Pac-12 standings.

It’s more than just a late-January showdown to gauge if the Wildcats or Huskies can make a push at the conference title.

It represents more than the progression of a rivalry between Lorenzo Romar’s squad and Sean Miller’s crew.

Yes, the Wildcats need a victory if they hope to go dancing in March, but this game is bigger than that.

ESPN GameDay matchups like Saturday’s have the potential to elevate a program’s recruiting, revenue and recognition.

“It’s a huge recruiting weekend for us,” Miller said. “We have a national audience, we have important people in the stands.”

The growing whiteout tradition alone is a major selling point for high school stars torn between schools. Then add in that basketball legends like Bob Knight, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis could be coming to McKale Center every few years and Arizona becomes an even more appealing destination.

There’s no question the nation’s No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad will be among the millions tuning in to ESPN to watch McKale Center turn white and Bilas, Davis and Knight rave about the atmosphere.

Could the intrigue of a packed house and a national audience be enough to lure Muhammad from Duke, Kentucky, UCLA or Kansas?
Quite possibly.

The correlation between Arizona and exciting basketball will be cemented in the minds of these future collegiate athletes, which is something a simple victory over a conference opponent could never do on its own.

Days like Saturday are why Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson and Angelo Chol chose Arizona over other top programs. The same will soon be said for future Wildcats.

Then there’s the revenue side of things. Saturday is one of the biggest days of the year for the city of Tucson.

This game’s economic impact outweighs any notch in the win column. Washington fans will travel all of the way from Seattle to be a part of such a spectacle.

UA fans or alumni are going to catch a flight to their old stomping grounds to be thrown in the sea of white and possibly meet the ESPN personalities.

All of these travelers will pay for hotels, rent cars, go out to dinner, grab a few drinks and pour money into the Tucson economy. And that’s just the non-locals.

The casual UA fan and Tucson resident becomes a diehard fan for games like Saturday’s. They’re willing to buy their kid a Solomon Hill jersey, or possibly look into a season ticket package for next season due to the intrigue of this game.

Consider this: Arizona football’s home matchup against Iowa two seasons ago brought in about $8 million to the community, according to a report from the Arizona Daily Star.

After taking money multipliers into account it was figured that the game brought in nearly $14 million in revenue. While football is a more profitable sport, it’s easy to see the financial impact of tomorrow’s game.

Lastly, there’s the issue of exposure. Arizona is destined for the bubble on Selection Sunday, and an impressive showing in front of the selection committee could go a long way in giving Arizona the edge it needs to get in the NCAA Tournament.

So a victory for Arizona against the Huskies is so much more than just a way to stay in the conference race. Saturday has the potential to draw top recruits, stimulate the Tucson economy and athletic department, and give UA the upper hand when Selection Sunday rolls around.

Not a bad day at the office for Greg Byrne and company.

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops.

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