The lasting effect of Georgia State’s NCAA appearance

The impact of March Madness for Georgia State is the beginning of expanding the exposure for Panther Nation. The men’s basketball team became the hottest topic by defeating the three-seeded Baylor Bears in the NCAA tournament’s second by a final of 57-56.

Georgia State is also known as a university with an underachieving football team year after year. The school spirit around campus is normally known to be dismal. Ron Hunter, head coach of the men’s basketball team, has built a program that is now competitive across the NCAA.

There were over 5,000 articles written including Georgia State in nearly a week, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. R.J. Hunter, a potential first-round draft pick, hit a shot he and the university will never forget. Georgia State did the impossible, some would say, by beating a team in the NCAA tournament.

The program has had small glimpses of national attention when Kevin Ware, former University of Louisville teammate of the Cardinals’ 2013 National Championship team transferred to the Panthers. Ryan Harrow also brought media headlines when he decided to transfer to Georgia State after transferring from Kentucky.

The basketball team had their second consecutive 25-plus win season under Ron Hunter. Georgia State Athletics Spokesman Jerry Trickie said this year’s media has been an all-time high than ever before.

“Our coverage this year — with national media as well as with professional scouts — was at an all-time high even before the NCAA tournament run,” he said. “It will only go up from there. The Georgia State brand has been growing since coach Hunter arrived and this year during the regular season, the Panthers had multiple stories on, Yahoo! Sports,, New York Times and more to showcase the uniqueness of Georgia State basketball.”

Not only did the basketball team gain massive media attention, the Georgia State men’s golf team went viral after footage of the club watching the game and celebrating as R.J Hunter hit the game-winner to top the Bears.

“It may have been about men’s basketball, but the golf team gained exposure by putting it out on social media,” Trickie said.

That awareness of Georgia State could show benefits over the course of time in athletics through recruiting, ticket sales and donations and on the university side with student body enrollment and alumni support.

Since becoming head coach, Ron Hunter has propelled the men’s basketball team to huge successes. Three of his seasons resulted in 20-win campaigns and the only one that did not was the 2012-13 season in the Panthers’ last year in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). As a caveat of Georgia State’s move to the Sun Belt, the Panthers could not compete for a conference championship that year.

The questions of his contract are still up for discussion. Hunter is expected to receive a contract extension, but there are other utilities the university has to take into consideration before so.

“The Athletics Department and [Georgia State] University are committed to working with Coach Hunter on building the best possible program for Georgia State,” Trickie said.

R.J. Hunter is the first player in Georgia State history to forgo his senior season and enter in the NBA draft. This has the potential to show the country and to future prospects that Georgia State can produce professional talent and it can compete with the big boys.

“Ron Hunter has a coaching staff who contributes to their success. R.J. has worked hard to improve and put himself in that position but he did not do it alone,” Trickie said. “He had help from a talented coaching staff that has been together – completely intact – for four years, and they are attracted great players to come to Atlanta and play alongside R.J. Being drafted will not only benefit R.J., but it will speak volumes to what can happen for players who come to Georgia State and are willing to work hard.”

Now the pressure increases next season following their run this season. After this year it is possible that Georgia State will be even under more of a media microscope in 2015-16. Everyone knows the team can get to the NCAA tournament, but what comes after that is the next question.

“The hurdle has been cleared,” Trickie said. “The team has made it, knows it can get there and win, and now the challenge is to do it again. We believe Coach Hunter will have the team ready in 2016.”