As this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off and moves through the bracket, millions of people countrywide are suffering from March Madness. Brackets are being ripped up and thrown in the trash as “cinderellas” move on and power houses fall. While all that seems like enough madness, what goes on behind the scenes is even more maddening. The NCAA Men’s Tournament brings in over $700M and that money is split up between the schools who make the field. As teams advance they receive more money from the NCAA so while your school losing may be a tough one to swallow, it’s even harder for your school’s Athletic Director who could have had more money coming in.
Having money come in is a huge deal for schools because 33.8% of the schools who made the tournament this year reported that they lost money on their programs this year. Schools operating at a loss has been an increasing problem for colleges as the cost of upkeep for stadiums and updating their practice facilities has been rising exponentially. Due to this increase, schools have been doing everything they can to raise money to offset their deficits. As schools raise more and more money and receive at least $1.67M for being in the tournament, it begs the question once again if college athletes should be paid.
I’ve discussed my views on if college athletes should be paid before and the short answer is of course they shouldn’t. If the players were paid, these schools would be even more in debt every year. The $220M that the NCAA doles out each year after the tournament goes to each conference, and from there each conference gives out money to the schools (meant to be equally divided up), and that money is meant to make up for any losses that the schools have. For the big name conferences, that money does tend to be divided equally amongst all the schools, whether they made the tournament or not. Where the money goes in the smaller conferences is more lopsided. The “cinderella” schools from the smaller conferences tend to be the only schools from their conferences representing in the tournament. Because they’re the only schools there, the money they bring in from the tournament tends to go back to the one school for their hard work.
What does all this mean? As the power conferences keep sending more and more teams to the tournament, they make more money. As the smaller conferences struggle to send a single team at all, they make less money. The rich get richer and poor get poorer as the cost of running a DI athletic program rises. The NCAA certainly shouldn’t keep the $700M they make from the tournament, but there should be a different system in place. The smaller schools are going to continue to struggle as the money is sent more and more to the big schools.