Fairleigh Dickinson is no longer watching film in a community shower to prepare for opponents after donations poured into the school’s coffers following its historic win over Purdue in the NCAA tournament last year.
Prior to Wednesday’s home game against Saint Peter’s, Fairleigh Dickinson will unveil a new locker room and film room months after it had to scout opponents with dripping shower heads above it due to space issues on campus. That community shower has been renovated into a new film room and a separate locker room has also been added after donors helped the school reach a $500,000 target following the school’s historic victory in March, which was just the second time a 16-seed had ever defeated a 1-seed in NCAA tournament history.
“It was a tighter space, so it’s not like you’re in the shower room and everybody’s comfortable,” FDU head coach Jack Castleberry told ESPN. “Everybody was kind of on top of each other and one of the shower heads was still leaking like a little drop of water every 15 seconds.”
Fairleigh Dickinson reached the NCAA tournament last year only because it replaced Merrimack — the Northeast Conference tournament champion that defeated FDU in the title game — a school that was ineligible because of NCAA rules for programs transitioning to Division I athletics. Through last season, the Knights had to use their community shower room as a film room because they couldn’t find a better space on campus.
But recent donations helped the school make changes.
“When I would be out there preaching, I was preaching without evidence, asking for belief without evidence, and now I’ve got evidence of it,” said FDU athletic director Brad Hurlbut. “Just how proud those people are. To hear from people that graduated in ’68, ’70, ’72 that said, ‘You’ve made my life. I can die happy now.’ And the tears they have in their eyes when they’re talking to you. That’s immeasurable, right? They are opening up their checkbooks and they want to be a part of it and it makes our [request] that much easier.”
The win over the Boilermakers has also changed the university’s profile, according to school officials. Fairleigh Dickinson’s undergraduate applications have increased by 32 percent this year and the school also had a 327 percent increase in online apparel sales following the win over Purdue compared to the same period last year, according to data from the school released exclusively to ESPN.
Attendance was up 48% over last year at the school’s open house in October for potential 2024-25 students. And the school recently announced a TV deal with YES Network to broadcast games.
“We knew this was an opportunity for us to own that time, to have our voice and to have our moment, so we immediately launched into a new campaign, ‘Seize the Moment and Change Your World,” which has become the message that we’ve started to capture through the basketball story about what we do day in and day out,” said FDU president Michael Avaltroni. “And we’ve started to tell that story to anyone and anywhere that would listen and really, we’re beginning to use that as a brand for us that I think is easily identifiable when you think about what happened for those 40 minutes against Purdue.”
Wednesday’s game will feature two teams that have enjoyed their respective Cinderella journeys. During the 2022 NCAA tournament, Saint Peter’s reached the Elite Eight via wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue. Saint Peter’s saw a rise in applications following its trip to the Elite Eight, too.
Fairleigh Dickinson is still calculating the full value of its 63-58 victory over Purdue in March. Per a report from First & First Consulting, LLC — a New York-based firm hired by the school to calculate the impact of that win — eight videos of highlights from the victory each had more than a million views on TikTok. There were 4 billion social media impressions attached to Fairleigh Dickinson and its win, per the firm, too. Plus, the school’s website had 1.3 million page views the night of the victory.
It’s a rapid turn for a school that had to prepare for Zach Edey, the Wooden Award winner, and his teammates last year in a community shower.
But those days are now part of the team’s past after the recent renovations.
“One time, we were watching film and [one of our players] keeps looking back because the water is literally dripping on him as we’re watching scouting reports for the next game,” Castleberry said. “You can’t make it up.”