Before the first ticket to the NCAA Tournament is sold, and eventually many of them are exchanged for a good amount of money, the event generates $ 850 million in revenue. In another three years, that number will increase by almost 30 percent. And that payment is guaranteed by a current contract with CBS and Turner Sports that runs through 2032.
So what we’re talking about, at the very least, is an event that guarantees a return of more than $ 11 billion to the NCAA and its member institutions over the next decade.
That’s for 67 college basketball games per year, three weeks of action.
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And does anyone want to fix that? Does anyone think it can improve almost perfectly? Does anyone want to replace the certainty of that income with speculation?
In terms of college basketball, this is like the barber who once complained to Jim Valvano about his predecessor at NC State, Norm Sloan, who was 57-1 in two seasons and won the 1974 NCAA championship, with the statement: “Imagine what Dean Smith would have done with those teams.”
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins isn’t the first to propose that the big shows create their own postseason championship, but he might be the smartest, which is why it was so disappointing to hear him come up with such a silly idea.
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“They’re doing it in soccer,” Huggins said on Big 12 media day. “Why wouldn’t they? Presidents and sports directors who have all the juice, why wouldn’t they? It doesn’t make sense why they wouldn’t. I think it’s more, ‘Why wouldn’t they?’ than ‘Why would they do it?’
“And then the other people, they can have their own tournament.”
Huggins wouldn’t have been that crazy about this idea when he was training in Akron, and possibly even Cincinnati. And now that I think about it, one could argue with Texas and Oklahoma’s upcoming exit from the Big 12 that even West Virginia’s “power” state control as a member of the Big 12 could be considered fragile. Huggs may have been arguing against the future of his own show.
That is not me speaking.
I am not the one who created the “Power 5” distinction.
Huggins rules out the mid- and low-level programs that comprise about a third of the NCAA tournament field. “Those Cinderella schools are putting 200 people, at best, in their gym,” he said. “We are putting 14,000.” However, the presence of such programs, and the potential to cause major disruption, creates a disproportionate share of the event’s appeal. That’s a big part of why CBS and Turner pay so much for March Madness, and removing that “Cinderella” factor would likely turn it back into a mere basketball tournament.
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Huggins complained that college basketball doesn’t have the kind of economic power that college football has “because we don’t generate the same kind of television revenue as football. But we didn’t try. “
What Huggins misses here is the basic math specific to soccer. First, there is the magic of the game at home. If you’re a top power with an 80,000-seat stadium and an average ticket price of $ 100, you’re generating roughly $ 8 million. Playing seven home games means $ 56 million. To get that much out of a 14,000-seat basketball field, even at $ 100 a ticket, a college basketball team would have to play 40 home games. Good luck charging that price, and somehow fixing that in a 27-game regular season.
When it comes to television audiences, there were 198 college football games It generated audiences of 4 million or more between 2015 and 2019, according to research by Andy Staples of The Athletic. In the regular college basketball season during the same period, there were only three such games. College basketball is a popular television sport, but its audience is divided in many more directions and the inventory is much larger.
That’s why soccer has most of the economic power in a Division I athletic program. It’s certainly not a fractured and flawed postseason. We have known for years that many bowl participants lose their share. The College Football Playoff has improved their luck; all Power 5 leagues received $ 66 million as part of the CFP’s revenue.
In the 2019 NCAA Tournament, however, the top three leagues in terms of achievements (Big Ten, ACC, SEC) had unit distributions of more than $ 32 million. And that’s not the only way members are compensated. the most of the income is disbursed through “sports scholarship and sponsorship funds,” a reward for those schools relative to the number of sports they compete on their campuses, generally benefiting top schools. There is more that goes into the Student Assistance Fund and the Academic Improvement Fund. The money is broken down this way because of the controversy generated years ago over the “$ 500,000 free throw”, when almost all distribution was based on tournament performance and the view was growing that this was too much pressure on players.
Obviously, it’s still a lot of money going back to the top shows.
If they had their own tournament, the energy programs could certainly keep more than what is generated, but the likely collapse in popularity would mean that everyone involved would receive smaller paydays.
In the past, the smart people in college athletics I’ve talked to have endorsed the magic of “automatic offers.” They understand how that inflates the value of March Madness beyond what seems likely given the relative popularity of college basketball.
The latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” brought in $ 56 million at the box office in its first week, even with moviegoers depressed by the pandemic. It received the approval of 84 percent of the film critics added by Rotten Tomatoes. Those who go to Bond films have known for six decades what awaits them: an intriguing villain, absurd action sequences, some dry humor, and a compelling (though never permanent) romantic interest. No one would mess with that formula by putting Bond in a court drama or a romantic comedy.
It’s a formula that has worked for years, not just artistically but financially as well, much like the NCAA Extended Support Tournament, with automatic bids for less prominent conferences and multiple bids and seeded heavyweights.
Huggins would take a concept that works beyond all reasonable expectations and trash it. It would mean less fun for college basketball fans and less money for everyone. Huggins has had some notable moments as a college coach: scaring Michigan in the 1986 first round, punishing Michigan State in the second round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament, thwarting Kentucky in the 2010 Elite Eight, reaching two Finals. Fours. Proposing the destruction of March Madness is not the best of Huggs.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.