Charles Nailen/The Hoya Despite a lackluster performance this season, last Saturday’s basketball game against UCLA drew a host of several enthusiastic Hoyas.

Unfortunately for men’s basketball fans, the days of Georgetown being an NCAA title contender year-in and year-out seem to be a thing of the past. Since the Hoya’s loss against Rutgers on Tuesday, they have dropped into the last place in the Big East and are now experiencing their longest losing streak since 1975.

While this season has been enormously frustrating for Hoya fans, a larger concern may be what impact, if any, Georgetown’s fall from its national contender status on the basketball court could have on application levels. If Georgetown’s basketball success was on par with its rise to prominence, its struggles in recent years may prove to have a negative effect.

In an interview with The New York Times Sunday, Myles Brand, the new president and chief executive of the NCAA and the former president of Indiana University, pointed to the quality of a university’s applicant pool as one thing that can be significantly improved as a direct result of athletic success. “Where you see the greatest positive benefits [of athletic success] is in the pool of students,” Brand said. “One school in recent years that has capitalized on that the most is Duke. Before Duke began its run as a major basketball power, it did not have the academic standing it does now.”

Georgetown’s Dean of Undergraduate Admission Charles Deacon acknowledges that success on athletic fields can have an impact on larger aspects of university life at certain institutions.

“Lesser known institutions that get an increase in visibility through athletics often get a jump in applications,” Deacon said. “For other institutions, it’s just part of the landscape. Duke’s won national championships in the last 10 years, but their applicant pool hasn’t increased much.”

Deacon has worked at Georgetown for over 30 years and has developed a relationship with the athletic program during that time. He was on the search committee that selected John Thompson to be Georgetown’s head men’s basketball coach in 1972. Under Thompson’s tutelage, the Hoyas went on to six Big East Tournament Championships, three Final Four appearances and a national championship in 1984. Georgetown was arguably the premiere program in college basketball in the 1980s, bringing the university publicity on a national scale never before experienced.

“I think the success of the basketball program at that moment in time [Thompson’s selection] along with a lot of other things that were going on in Washington and at Georgetown did bring a lot of recognition,” Deacon said. “Particularly men’s basketball, which was on television, really did help stamp the Georgetown name recognition.”

Application statistics support Deacon’s claim. From 1972, when applications were less than 5,000, there was a steady increase throughout the 1970s. Thompson was only building the program at that point, but by 1982, the year Georgetown reached its first final four, application numbers had reached 8,000.

“I think it was kind of a momentum type of thing, if you will,” Deacon said. “It was really over a 30-year period. We had big increases in the period between 1983 and 1987, in the time when men’s basketball was winning national championships. I think there may have been a little lift [because of basketball success]. But we certainly haven’t made our reputation in the world based on our athletic programs.”

It was nearly two decades ago, however, that Georgetown last played in a Final Four, and the Hoyas have played in only one NCAA Tournament since 1997. Head Coach Craig Esherick has experienced mixed results, at best, since taking over from Thompson in 1999. This year’s team, at 2-7 in Big East Conference play, is struggling through its worst season in recent memory.

As the men’s basketball team struggled through much of the last decade, Georgetown consistently set application records in nearly every year since 1991. The numbers may change in the future, but it appears as if Georgetown’s applicant pool will continue growing stronger regardless of whether Esherick or any other coach can bring the men’s basketball team back to the Final Four.

“The applicant pool’s going to be strong,” Deacon said. “Georgetown’s clearly seen as the best place to be in D.C. People come and visit and come away with the feeling that this is a really solid, interesting place, not with regard to the athletic program but with regard to the benefits that come from being in this location.”

In 1972, Georgetown received 4,843 undergraduate applications and accepted about 3,000 students, an acceptance rate of over 60 percent. Since that time, the number of applications has tripled. In 2002, Georgetown received a record 15,327 undergraduate applications and accepted 3,194 for an acceptance rate of 21 percent, a rate lower than that of the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Cornell and Northwestern and also had the ninth lowest acceptance rate in the country among doctoral universities.

Deacon also drew a distinction between state universities, where athletics are part of the entire state’s identity and not just the university’s, and private institutions like Georgetown.

“Occasionally in essays we see students say how they followed the Hoyas, but not in overwhelming numbers,” he said. “I think state universities carry a more clear banner for something that is part of everybody’s life that is living in, say, Nebraska. I don’t think Georgetown’s student body comes in thinking that way at all. This is a diverse group and they have lots of different interests.”

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