In 2010, Butler University’s men’s basketball team made a stunning run to the national championship game, becoming the smallest school to make the final in the modern history of the NCAA tournament. In 2011, they did it again. With back-to-back turns as America’s favorite underdog, Butler basketball provided its university back home in Indianapolis with an unprecedented opportunity.
The Cinderella Strategy details how Butler started its move toward the Final Fours as far back in 1989, forged a synergy between a big-time athletic program and a serious academic institution in the process, and then leveraged the Cinderella story for all it was worth. The authors analyze how the university’s decision-makers took full advantage of this opportunity, delving into the brilliant marketing of Butler’s live mascot program, the authentic branding of “The Butler Way,” and the critical move into the Big East. Through these and other tactics, Butler transformed its academic reputation, enrollment, fundraising, and campus infrastructure, all in an era when many other small, private universities have struggled to survive. The resulting story interweaves basketball luminaries like Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, Villanova Coach Jay Wright, and San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich with the tireless efforts of so many lesser known but equally talented individuals within the Butler community. The Cinderella Strategy reveals how Butler has shattered the odds time and time again, both on and off the court. In the process, it offers a heartening case study of how a complex organization can find, manage, and multiply success, without having to trade its soul in the process.
“After we faced Butler in the 2010 national championship game, I remember specifically talking to Brad Stevens about how Butler’s run would allow so many people to see all the good things about the university, many of which had little to do with basketball. The Cinderella Strategy shows just how busy Butler has been over the past decade, and how the university has taken full advantage of the opportunity it earned in 2010. Butler built a model basketball program and, more importantly, a model institution.”—Mike Krzyzewski, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Duke University
Book Graham Honaker (Butler University)
Josh Abner MBA