PC anticipates continued positive momentum despite Cooley’s departure

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE is anticipating continued momentum campuswide despite the departure of men's basketball coach Ed Cooley. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE COLLEGE
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE is anticipating continued momentum campuswide despite the departure of men's basketball coach Ed Cooley. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE COLLEGE

PROVIDENCE – For more than a decade, Ed Cooley did not just bring solid consistency to the Providence College men’s basketball team. He was Providence College.

Along with being on the sidelines leading the Friars, Cooley’s image was everywhere in commercials and on various television and digital broadcasts when the team was on a national stage. Last year, the century-plus-old Dominican Friars college on the city’s north side significantly benefited from that consistency and Cooley’s impact.

PC this past fall saw more than 1,100 first-year students begin taking classes on campus, a college record. The Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, the college’s president, told Providence Business News at the time the Friars’ seasonlong success, culminating in the team making it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen round for the first time in more than a quarter century, had an impact on that enrollment.

Disappointment and sadness still linger on campus with Cooley’s sudden departure from PC to coach Georgetown University’s men’s basketball team. However, with new coach Kim English being introduced on campus Wednesday alongside new women’s hoops coach Erin Batth, PC’s top administrators are confident that the college’s campuswide positive momentum will continue.

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PROVIDENCE COLLEGE, according to college officials, has received a significant number of applications from prospective students for its new School of Nursing and Health Sciences that will launch next fall. The new school building, pictured, will be built by 2025. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE COLLEGE
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE, according to college officials, has received a significant number of applications from prospective students for its new School of Nursing and Health Sciences that will launch next fall. The new school building, pictured, is scheduled to be built by 2025. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE COLLEGE

In an email to PBN, Sicard said the college “is a highly sought-after school” and the men’s basketball program is “only one factor” in a student’s decision to matriculate at PC. He cites PC’s academic programming, state-of-the-art facilities and the college’s “vibrant culture” as main factors attracting students to attend the private college.

Sicard also said “a great deal of excitement” is reverberating on campus about PC’s new School of Nursing and Health Sciences that will launch in the fall. Renderings for the new 100,000-square-foot nursing school building near Eaton Street were unveiled earlier this year, with construction slated to be done by 2025. Kyle McInnis, dean of PC’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, told PBN earlier this year that by the end of a four-year cycle, approximately 800 students will be enrolled in the nursing and health sciences programs.

Right now, the numbers show that momentum. Sicard said PC this year received a record number of applications from prospective students. PC officials say 12,460 applications have been sent to the college’s admissions office for consideration, exceeding the then-record 11,119 applications PC received last year. The new nursing and health sciences program alone received 1,200 applications for possible enrollment, according to PC Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Raul Fonts, which was larger than he expected.

Fonts, who Sicard credits for deploying various marketing strategies, told PBN college officials traveled to 40 different states throughout the fall informing the public about PC and its new nursing and health program. The college also revamped its website and utilized other marking tools, Fonts said.

“A lot of our marketing paid off in that it helped us increase our overall applicant pool by 12% this year,” Fonts said. “That’s a big increase in one year.”

It is currently unclear what PC’s first-year student enrollment will be for next fall. PC spokesperson Steven Maurano told PBN that prospective students have until May 1 to make their decisions, so the college won’t have a handle on exactly how large the incoming freshman class will be until the week following that date.

ED COOLEY, former Providence College men's basketball coach, was a major aspect in marketing the college during his 12 years at PC. / AP FILE PHOTO/MARY SCHWALM
ED COOLEY, former Providence College men’s basketball coach, was a major aspect in marketing the college during his 12 years at PC. / AP FILE PHOTO/MARY SCHWALM

However, Fonts says PC is ahead of last year’s pace of early deposits for new students by 25%. The college needs to add 100 more new students with the new programming coming online, he said, and is confident another major enrollment number will come to fruition.

Cooley was also a significant part of PC’s marketing. Vice President and Director of Athletics Steven Napolillo said that in addition to being in commercials, Cooley would speak to new incoming students looking to attend PC – using his then-trademark mantra “Us. We. Together. Family. Friars.” – and did various charity work in the community.

“That was one of Ed’s gifts,” Napolillo said. “He wasn’t just a coach. He was part of the Providence College brand.”

While Fonts also acknowledged Cooley’s significance in the college’s marketing, he does not feel PC’s marketing strategy will be impacted by Cooley leaving. He says PC has “a strong brand” and its reputation is “gaining ground nationally.”

Sicard also said that PC’s membership in the Big East Conference – a conference the college helped establish in 1979 – and the TV contract it has with Fox Sports is “important.” He said that national exposure for the Friars, plus running ads promoting the college during games, has assisted PC in its wider marketing efforts.

“[It] helped us become a more well-known institution nationally,” Sicard said.

Napolillo acknowledged there were multiple negotiations, including pay increases, in an effort to keep Cooley on campus. His annual salary at PC was just under $4 million, according to Bet MGM.

Napolillo said Cooley’s decision to leave PC for Georgetown was “a personal one.” Napolillo also said finances “will never be an issue” when it comes to investing in athletic coaches, including English, who is expected to make significantly more money at PC than the $925,000 annual salary he received coaching George Mason University’s men’s basketball program.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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