Editor's note: RecruitingNation is taking a look at the state of each team's brand.
BATON Rouge, La. -- It was the day after LSU kicked arguably its best and easily most marketable football player, Tyrann Mathieu, off its football team.
In the aftermath of what had become the biggest stories of the preseason, LSU’s fan day went on as scheduled and there was plenty of reason to wonder if turnout would be up to par on a hot Saturday afternoon.
Though the weather cleared by the start of the event, it had been a gloomy, stormy morning, a detriment to road-trippers. And the Mathieu story was the latest in a series of events that might have chipped away at Tiger football’s good name in recent months.
First was the embarrassing 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. There were some late recruiting losses on signing day. And there was the sad story of the “Honey Badger,” whose forced departure because of what sources told ESPN was a violation of the school’s substance abuse policy left the biggest attraction from the event.
The result of all these negative forces?
Judging from the number of posters handed out and the number of applications accepted for things like the athletic kid’s club, attendance was about 40 percent higher than normal, LSU assistant athletic director for marketing Matt Shanklin said. He said lines for autographs that formed before the event were the longest in the history of LSU fan days.
“With the success of not just football, but the success of all the LSU programs and its many athletes, I feel the LSU Tiger brand is very strong,” Shanklin said.
It’s not just fan day. LSU’s support not only shows no sign of diminishing, but seems to be on a constant ascent.
• A week before Mathieu’s departure, the university announced it had sold out its 68,772 season tickets for Tiger Stadium for a ninth straight year.
“The demand for LSU football season tickets continues to grow,” LSU assistant AD for ticket operations Brian Broussard said. “The requests for LSU season tickets continue to be higher than the number of tickets that we have to offer.”
To meet the demand, LSU will start construction this fall to expand Tiger Stadium from 92,542 seats to close to 100,000 seats by 2014, a project that will be privately financed.
• At the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, LSU was No. 9 in The Collegiate Licensing Company’s list of the top-selling institutions.
By the end of the third quarter of 2011-12, LSU had shot up to No. 5.
• Fueled by the SEC’s lucrative football-based TV deal and a prosperous athletic foundation, LSU remains one of a handful of completely self-sufficient collegiate athletic programs. It does not receive a dime from taxpayer money or student fees.
LSU athletics is so flush with cash, it annually donates money back to the university. In July, it announced its biggest one-time donation, a $4 million gift chancellor Mike Martin said was instrumental in preventing layoffs and university-wide cuts.
It was a reflection of the strength of LSU’s brand to be able to generate those kinds of private funds. It also further enhanced the brand because it reinforced the notion that LSU was powerful and working for the better.
That’s what it boils down to. LSU was embarrassed by Alabama, but in a game every other school in the country wanted to be in. And now, despite its annual dose of bad August news from Mathieu, LSU is still a national championship contender.
Those are things an athletic program can take to the bank.