Jan. 23, 2014
Gus Malzahn and Auburn were in the BCS title game spotlight in the Rose Bowl (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Wayne Alderman could always tell when Auburn plays for the BCS national championship.
Enrollment, campus wide, spiked.
It did when Auburn won the national title in 2010, and it has again with the Tigers' appearance in the BCS Championship Game in January.
"It really does affect the university besides football," said Alderman, Auburn's Dean of Enrollment Services.
It affects football, of course, whether it's in recruiting, crowds, souvenirs or a big BCS payday. The university emailed a friendly reminder to donors and fans Thursday about 2014 season tickets. Certainly, Gus Malzahn talked Auburn football in California, site of the final BCS title game, and did interviews followed by more interviews on ESPN for a month.
Dramatic victories over Georgia and Alabama were shown countless times on highlight shows. That was free advertising for Auburn, Malzahn figured.
"Every time you walk by a TV you get a chance to see one of those plays," Malzahn said.
Alderman said he saw a spike in admission requests in October just as the football team began to attract that national attention. Admission requests are up 15 percent, he said, tracking on a similar path as in 2010 when admissions requests were up 17 percent.
Alderman said Auburn tries to maintain an enrollment of approximately 25,000 even as more potential students turn to the university.
"It's just the visibility of the football team. People notice. It definitely helps," Alderman said.
Auburn attracted a first wave of new recruits as the 2013 season turned for the better. The Tigers welcomed five early enrollees for the spring semester. Auburn is hoping that attention will result in a Top 10 recruiting class when signing day arrives in February.
Playing in the BCS sends a positive signal, Malzahn said.
"I just think you can tell our program is going the right direction," he said. "I feel very good. I think our best years are ahead. I know we've had a great year, but I think we've got a chance to sustain this thing. We have the right coaches, and our players – we're a young team. 2010, it was completely different. We're laying the groundwork. Early in the year, I said we're a work in progress, and our guys found a way to get us here. But I think our best years are ahead."
The season ended in the BCS title game, a last-second loss to Florida State. But Malzahn, in his first year as Auburn's head coach, saw the potential of Auburn way back at the spring A-Day Game.
"We had 84,000 at our spring game coming off the season that we had last year, and I'm just real happy that our fans are enjoying some of this and having fun with it, and it's been fun to watch," he said. "At Auburn, you can recruit well. Auburn expects to win championships. We've been here before. It's a great program, and this year is no different."
This story appears in Tiger Roar, the athletic department's digital magazine. The latest version features Auburn's turnaround football, including the Top 10 moments of 2013. Carl Lawson and Frank Thomas are featured, too. You can download the app for the iPad to read and watch the interactive elements of the magazine. There is a also a web-based version of the magazine.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine