Doing well at the tournament more than once can create an expectation that the team will continue to succeed. That can lead to spending more and more money on coaching salaries and facilities — or easing admission requirements for major recruits. It also thrusts tiny schools such as Butler into a megamillions race against perennial — and far wealthier — competitors.
Butler has nearly completed a $16 million fundraising campaign for the renovation of Hinkle Fieldhouse, an iconic shrine to basketball that towers over the campus and was made famous by the 1986 movie “Hoosiers.” The project will add more-comfortable seating for fans, a new scoreboard with more space for advertisements and more office space for coaches and administrators.
After Butler’s first Final Four win in 2010, Coach Brad Stevens began to receive offers from larger programs. He instead signed a 12-year contract with Butler. Stevens, 36, started at Butler as a volunteer coach in 2000, having quit a corporate marketing job, and became head coach in April 2007.
Stevens was paid more than $850,000 in 2010, according to the university’s latest public tax documents. By comparison, Georgetown’s John Thompson III made at least $2.2 million and the University of Kentucky’s John Calipari made at least $3.8 million.
Butler basketball has one of the highest player graduation rates in the country and for seven years has had a player named an academic all-American.
“I really try to emphasize: Don’t choose us because we’re on TV. Don’t choose here because you want the glory of what the past has experienced,” Stevens said of his recruiting efforts. “Choose it because it’s the right place for you to ultimately better yourself.”
The program has slowly begun to recruit outside the Midwest. An incoming class of recruits includes players from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and California.
Even before the Big East move was formally announced, Butler professors and students were dreaming about how to spend the new millions the school expects. If nothing else, they say, the money could allow the athletics department to more fully support itself, freeing up other funds for academics.
“There will be more costs,” Danko said, speaking on a cellphone as he boarded a plane after the Big East announcement in New York on Wednesday. “We will need to spend more on travel and things like that. There are more costs.”