It’s still too early for the University of Florida to accurately gauge what its national championship in basketball will mean to its bottom line. Licensee royalty reports are not in yet, and it’s still early for alumni-giving updates. But both figure to handsomely reflect the Gators’ finest athletic hour since the football team won it all in 1996.
According to UF Associate Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations Joe Hice, the anecdotal evidence is impressive. “People are talking about the university more — we know that,” he says. “It also makes a great starting point for a billion-dollar fund raising next year.”
But while Steve Spurrier’s championship team of ’96 helped put Florida on the map, Billy Donovan’s hoops champs can help put the Gator Nation brand on the globe.
“This helps us outside the U.S.,” says Hice, who was among the 6,000 Gator fans who watched the NCAA final on an O’Connell Center Jumbo-Tron. “Basketball is an international sport. So now there’s more awareness of us around the world, especially Europe. Interestingly, we have an (graduate school) office in Beijing, and our people were greeted with “Go Gators” cheers after beating UCLA.”
And for media insiders, yes, this is the same Joe Hice who made a name for himself in journalism and public relations circles in the Tampa Bay Area in the early ’80s. The hardcore UF alum has come full circle – and hit the ground running in Gainesville in this, his first year as associate vice president.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer, more talented guy.