On Deck: The Money of March Madness

On Deck: The Money of March Madness

By Ron Espinola  Posted March 2, 2016

In two weeks, 68 teams will receive a coveted berth in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. With the selection comes the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime national title as well as the more important cash payoff to that school’s conference.

For sports fans, not just basketball fans, this is one of the premier spectacles in all of sports. You don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate March Madness. The upsets, last-second shots and the simple thrill of the tournament are engrossing. Not to mention the bracket you painstakingly completed.

However, as you sit on your couch or stream games on your phone and enjoy the skill of Ben Simmons, you should remember a few important stats.

The NCAA itself generated $900 million in revenue from broadcast rights (cbsnews.com).

In 2014 the NCAA Tournament brought in $1.13 billion in advertising (forbes.com).

Approximately $9 billion is bet on the tournament according to the American Gaming Association. Nevada sports books will take in between $100-200 million.

The players are “amateurs”.

According to the NCAA, it redistributes most of the revenue to its member schools. Most of this is done through its Basketball Fund. For example, the former Big East Conference received more than $28 million in 2013. However, Northwestern of the Big 10 has not earned any money from the fund but has received $24.25 million since the fund’s inception.

The bottom line is that the NCAA, and NCAA basketball in particular, is a multi-billion dollar business for everyone except the athletes themselves.

Of course, they receive the benefits of an education, but this assumes they are scholarship athletes and they complete their degree. The NCAA says its graduation rate is 86% while the federal government says it is 67% for all athletes.

The system is flush with money and some of it should more directly benefit those who provide the product. Yes, these players are “student-athletes” but this does not mean what it used to. As the money involved increases exponentially so should our perception of the athletes.

So good luck with your bracket and enjoy the Madness. Just remember some of these players are playing not for the pride and opportunity to play for a certain college. They spend a year in college because they have to. Rest easy because you have the opportunity to make some money while the players don’t.