In the War Room with Warfel: Salukis’ success equals students for SIU

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

SIU saw another drop in enrollment when the figures came out, dropping 8.75% percent for fall 2019, bringing enrollment down to 11,695 students.

(See more: SIUC enrollment decline continues: Total enrollment down 8.75%)

Anyone can point fingers and say why enrollment has dropped, but one item that could solve this problem is success in sports at SIU.

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Last season, SIU claimed MVC championships in both men’s and women’s golf and softball team advanced to the NCAA regionals.

Congratulations to all three of those teams, but unfortunately they do not get the same amount of television coverage or national exposure as football or men’s basketball does.

One element that could help SIU rise back to prominence, as it did in 1991 with an enrollment of 24,869 students, would be success across all sports including football and men’s basketball.

The last year football or basketball made a postseason appearance was in 2009 where the football team won the Missouri Valley Football Conference and lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs to William and Mary University 24-3.

The last time men’s basketball made a tournament appearance was in 2007 when they were the regular season conference champions, and they advanced all the way to the sweet sixteen of the NCAA tournament.

From 2003 to 2009, when both the football and basketball teams were having much success, there was still a decrease in students at SIU.

However, the decrease was much smaller compared to the almost 12% that occurred just this last year.

From 2003 to 2009, there was a total decrease of 1,037 students, which is a 21% decrease across the six years.

Although from year to year in that six year span, the biggest decrease in students was from 2005 to 2006 where Southern lost 438 students, which equals out to about a 2% decrease.

To see just how advantageous postseason tournament success is, you can look to conference rival Loyola Chicago when their men’s basketball team made their final four run in 2018.

According to USA Today, when the Ramblers made their run, web traffic on their website alone went up 400%.

According to Forbes’ request for more information from possible new students at Loyola, Loyola went up 31% when they made their run for the NCAA title.

Also, the donations for the athletics programs also increased by 660% after the team made their infamous run.

Looking to the football side of athletics, North Dakota State University, which has been arguably one of the best teams in FCS football for the last decade, saw an increase in students from 2013 to 2014.

Since 2014, however, it has been a steady decline similar to what Southern saw from 2003 to 2009.

Since 2010, the Bison have won seven of the last nine FCS championships, and they were tied for first or won the Missouri Valley Football Conference in each of those years.

From 2010 when the Bison lost in the FCS quarterfinals to 2014 when NDSU had won their fourth straight FCS championship, student enrollment had gone up a little over two percent.

For a school that is located in Fargo, North Dakota a little over two percent over a four year period is successful.

Success in sports at SIU could at the very least slow down how much the enrollment has dropped since 2009.

Since 2009, the enrollment at Southern has dropped 37 percent going off of last year’s fall enrollment, a total number of 7,533 students.

See more: Montemagno: ‘18,300 by 2025,’ SIUC sees nearly 12 percent enrollment drop during Fall 2018 semester

I’m not in any way saying that football or basketball has to win their respective championships in order for students to look into SIU, but just getting into that tournament would help.

Most schools have not released their enrollment information for the current semester yet, but I would expect Murray State and Belmont enrollment to be up even though Belmont lost by two to Maryland, and Murray only made it to the second round.

I hear so many alumni of Southern talk about the “glory days” of SIU, and 2003-2009 was quite the run.

Men’s basketball made five NCAA tournament appearances in those years, and football made an appearance in their tournament in each of those years.

I thank softball and golf for having successful seasons last year; for Saluki fans, let’s hope for a great season in each of the sports this year.

As the sports rise and fall at SIU, so does the school.

Adam Warfel, Sports Editor, can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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