While it's fun to theorize just how much effect an athletic program has on the school spirit and enrollment of a college or university, in reality it's all about the BOTTOM LINE. And the bottom line at all colleges and universities is the market value of endowment assets. It is THE sign of stability and educational prominence that colleges and universities tout to students, alums, and donors. And SLU is the number 3 Catholic university (behind only Notre Dame and Boston College) in the country. SLU is even ahead of Georgetown. In endowment, they are leagues ahead of most other Catholic universities. Santa Clara is one the closest to them--any wonder why Biondi hired the AD from Santa Clara. What is remarkable is that SLU is not too far removed from those days of being in danger of closing its doors, until Father Reinert was able to enlist Augie Busch and Bob Hope to save it financially.
The message behind this is that a university president is usually wise enough to know that he/she has a far better chance of growing the endowment and increasing stability through a student who becomes head of a law firm than through one who becomes an NBA player. Is it possible to use the financial assets to build recognition and excitement through athletics? Absolutely. Do athletics keep a university afloat? No way. SLU was in danger of closing its doors at a time when they were able to recruit just about every high school star who played in the St. Louis metro area. They were in contention for Missouri Valley championships--one of the toughest conferences in the country at the time--just about every year, and they built plenty of excitement at Kiel.