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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Missouri athletics success drives up applications

Sports teams help elevate the university's national exposure.

July 8, 2009

The University of Missouri received 12,055 applications for admission in 2007, Senior Associate Director of Admissions Chuck May said. A year later, that number jumped to 14,317. The increase in applications seems to correlate with the high success from many of Missouri's athletics programs.

This year, after more success in academics and athletics, Missouri has seen another increase in applicants. May said that as of June 29, Missouri has sifted through 16,174 applications, an increase of 1,857 from last year.

"The athletics are one of a multitude of factors when looking at enrollment," May said. "I think the reputation of the university has a larger impact. We're getting a lot more national exposure through many media outlets, and that helps with awareness of the school overall."

Although Missouri has enjoyed success in many sports, many fans focus on two in particular: football and basketball. In the past couple years, those programs have shined for the school.

"Missouri is a hot name out there right now," men's basketball coach Mike Anderson said. "Athletics are a front porch where people can really see a school. There's such an enthusiasm and excitement. It's the place to be at this time."

Anderson, in his third season, took a team picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 on a magical run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, he won a program-best 31 games (including a perfect 21-0 home record) and led the Tigers to the Big 12 championship. But Anderson realizes he can have as much of an impact off the court as he has on the court.

"From day one, I've been a team player," Anderson said. "Athletics and basketball are just a small part of the university. I make it a point to get my team involved around campus, and make sure they know the impact they can have. Missouri gives you a fullness of college education, a little bit of everything in life."

May said Missouri has seen a steady growth in enrollment over the past seven years. But it is impossible to ignore the correlation in the applications spike and the athletic success.

"From an outsider's perspective, it would seem the success has to generate interest from students," softball coach Ehren Earleywine said. "It's a driving factor. Kids are watching TV all the time and when they see how well (Missouri) is doing, they want to be involved was a program like that. They want that college experience."

Earleywine was another big part of that success this year. He guided the Missouri softball team to a 50-win season, the most ever for the program. The Tigers advanced all the way to the Women's College World Series after being named Big 12 champions for the first time, in addition to winning NCAA Regional and Super Regional championships.

One of the big reasons for Missouri's recent popularity has to do with its national exposure. And most agree on when that defining moment took place: Missouri football ascending to number one in the Associated Press national rankings in November 2007.

"The football team being ranked No. 1 was a big turning point for the school," swimming and diving coach Brian Hoffer said. "People saw (the school) differently after that. I would walk through the airport wearing my stuff, and people were high-fiving me. I had never experienced anything like that."

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