Richmond Times-Dispatch

Ranking means money, other benefits

ADHardt says hoops success lifts ‘all boats’ in Spiders athletics

- BY JOHN O’CONNOR

No Spiders players tested positive for COVID-19.

The University of Richmond on Tuesday concluded a one-month fundraisin­g campaign for athletics. Below the “CLICK HERE TO DONATE” tab on the school’s website was a picture of the Spiders’ five basketball starters posed in blue uniforms surrounded by red 19s. The big, bold headline: RANKED.

Richmond, which won 76-64 at Kentucky on Sunday, this week made its first appearance since 2010 in the AP Poll, at No. 19. Success in UR’s flagship sport comes at a fortuitous time for Richmond, which encouraged donations to address athletics costs associated with COVID-19 —$750,000 this academic year, including aminimum of $385,020 spent on testing

men’s and women’s basketball players during their seasons, according to UR.

Apart from a surge in financial support — UR surpassed its campaign goal of $100,000 — many other benefits come with a presence in the most prestigiou­s Top 25 in which the Spiders can appear (in football, they play on the FCS level). Richmond’s overall brand gained strength.

“National success in the men’s basketball program is a rising tide that raises all boats in our athletics regatta,” John Hardt, UR’s vice president and director of athletics, said Tuesday afternoon. “It definitely is a positive reflection for all of us in Spider athletics.”

Hardt added that for the university community, alumni and friends, the national ranking “is a real point of pride.”

On Monday and Tuesday, Hardt said he had heard from dozens of UR graduates from all over the country “sharing their congratula­tions and expressing how proud they are of the men’s basketball program and how wonderfull­y [coach] Chris Mooney and our Spider basketball players represent the University of Richmond.”

The Spiders went 12-20 during the 2017-18 season, and 13-20 the following year, deeply disappoint­ing results for a traditiona­lly successful program. Pressure increased on Mooney, UR’s coach since 2005.

Richmond rediscover­ed success last season with a 24-7 finish (14-4 A-10), and was in position to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. The pandemic prevented Richmond from playing an A-10 tournament game, and the NCAA tournament was canceled.

Heading into this year, UR was picked to win the A-10 in the league’s preseason poll for the first time since the school joined the A-10 in 2001. Sunday’s win at Kentucky, rankedNo. 10 in the AP Poll, elevated the Spiders from the “others receiving votes” category to No. 19.

Ascending to top-20 status

“is just a tremendous reflection on the great work that Chris Mooney and his staff and all of our players have done, and the effort that they’ve put in to earn a national ranking,” Hardt said.

Mooney said the fall opening of the Queally Athletics Center, a $15 million support facility for men’s and women’s basketball, fortifies Richmond’s recruiting pitch by demonstrat­ing the school’s unquestion­ed commitment to hoops. A national ranking also catches the attention of prospects, and may allow Richmond to upgrade future nonconfere­nce scheduling.

And UR’s four senior starters are eligible to return next season, in accordance with the NCAA’s adjusted position in response to the pandemic.

The Spiders haven’t competed as a ranked team since reporting to the 2010 NCAA tournament date with St. Mary’s at No. 24, with a 26-8 record. UR lost 80-71, in Providence, R.I.

Ascending to top20 status “is just a tremendous reflection on the great work that Chris Mooney and his staff and all of our players have done, and the effort that they’ve put in to earn a national ranking.”

 ?? MARK CORNELISON/SEC SERVICES ?? Forwards Nathan Cayo ( left) and Tyler Burton celebrated after URwon 76-64 Sunday at Kentucky. The victory elevated the Spiders to No. 19 in the AP Top 25.
MARK CORNELISON/SEC SERVICES Forwards Nathan Cayo ( left) and Tyler Burton celebrated after URwon 76-64 Sunday at Kentucky. The victory elevated the Spiders to No. 19 in the AP Top 25.
 ??  ?? John Hardt,
UR’s vice president and director of athletics.
The Spiders went from “others receiving votes” in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll to
No. 19 this week.
John Hardt, UR’s vice president and director of athletics. The Spiders went from “others receiving votes” in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll to No. 19 this week.

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