Joining the WAC comes with the possibility of qualifying in national tournaments, but it also affect the amount of revenue UVU athletics make each semester.
The NCAA’s Basketball Distribution Fund annually shares portions of the total revenue made from the college basketball tournaments. Commonly referred to as “March Madness,” the men’s tournament produced over $800 million in 2011.
Since the NCAA is a nonprofit organization, that money is split up amongst the various conferences that had teams qualify for the tournament. The amount is also dependent on the quantity of teams that qualify.
“There are many more opportunities to gain additional revenue from the WAC compared to the GWC,” UVU associate athletic director Jared Sumsion explained via email. “The GWC did not offer conference revenue opportunities at all. There is a potential for revenue from TV, online streaming, corporate partnerships, specific NCAA funding, and conference revenue sharing with the WAC. Now we have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA post-season with automatic qualifiers that the WAC provides.”
Based on a report from 2011 that outlines the revenue made by schools from the Patriot League, which includes schools much smaller in size than those that compete within the WAC, Lehigh earned the entire conference an additional $200,000 by winning its first-round game against Duke. Whether or not the Wolverines qualify, they will still be looking at a portion of the fund since the champion of the WAC tournament qualifies for the big dance.
While achieving the goal of competing in the postseason is essential to the growth of smaller athletic programs, it can often be all but impossible.
To avoid focusing on the allure of additional revenue that would come as a result of competing for an NCAA championship, we need to further explore the actual money that exists within the WAC. The table below, provided by Sumsion, depicts the financial budgets of the members of the WAC
*Amounts are in dollars
The majority of the funding of course comes from boosters. It is hard to imagine UVU relying on many boosters capable of making a significant difference, but that is not the case.
“About four years ago we had 250 boosters,” Sumsion said. “Through fundraising initiatives we have grown that number to almost 900 boosters (individuals who have donated to athletics on an annual basis). Other main sources of revenue include state dollars allocated by the university, student fees, fundraising, corporate sponsorships, guaranteed games, game revenue (ticketing/clothing sales/concessions), and other events such as the Wolverine Golf Classic.”
The WAC also brings with it a closer proximity to fellow conference mates. While competing in the GWC, UVU annually made the 2,179-mile trip to NJIT.
“We are also saving a significant amount of money on travel because the GWC was spread throughout the country,” Sumsion said. “Additionally, the notoriety and prestige of the WAC has given a greater opportunity for revenues with our institution-wide apparel deal (currently with Adidas) and other corporate partnerships.
If the Wolverines are to make it to one of the national tournaments, they won’t have to worry about many travel expense.
“The NCAA does assist with some travel and other items in some scenarios for NCAA regionals and nationals, but that is on a sport by sport and case by case basis,” Sumsion said.
Though UVU ranks near the bottom of the WAC in terms of funding, the transition to the conference provides additional revenue that was previously unimaginable.