It Pays to Play

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By Alyssa Synakowski

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again: no, not Christmas but March Madness. For nearly two and a half weeks of the nation’s attention is dedicated to college basketball each year, whether we like sports or not.

We get competitive at work, school or with friends filling out brackets as we try to predict which teams will make it to the Final Four. Fans live for the Cinderella teams and wonder who will be the next Butler or the next Virginia Commonwealth.

This is the first year UVU has a good chance for at an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The men’s basketball team has tied for or in first place the entire season as the Wolverines have played well against competition in the Western Athletic Conference.

UVU will need to win the WAC tournament in Las Vegas, Nev. over spring break in order to hear its name called on March 16, selection Sunday.

The Wolverines don’t have great odds of making their way past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but a trip into March Madness pays big. As of 2012, playing, not even winning, one game in the tournament will earn a conference nearly $1.5 million.

The NCAA’s Revenue Distribution Plan explains that the payout is “to be distributed to Division I conferences based on their performance in the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship over a six-year rolling period.”

UVU would earn the WAC $245,500 each year, for six years, even if it does not make the NCAA tournament the following five years.

The goal of each season is to win the NCAA tournament, but in order to continue looking at the numbers, making it to the Final Four is the best-case scenario for every conference.

In this scenario, UVU would play five games in the tournament starting in the second round from an automatic bid continuing until they play their last game in the Final Four.

Each of the four teams in the Final Four will generate $7.7 million for their respective conferences.

Where does this money go?

Each conference operates differently, but standard practice allows the money to go directly back into the athletic departments with no direction for its use.

Conferences are encouraged to split the money equally to all schools, but some will provide stipends to the schools that actually participated in the NCAA Tournament game.

The huge monetary value tied to deep tournament runs begins to explain why a university will pour so much money into their basketball programs. In 2010, the Big East payout was more than $23 million, the ACC received $18 million, and the Big 12 made $17 million.

ACC powerhouse Duke University has won four national championships since the 1991 season with the most recent title coming in 2010. Of that $18 million payout to the ACC, Duke contributes nearly one-third.

From 2010 to 2012, Duke basketball spent $3.3 million on their program. According to Forbes magazine, the Blue Devils have a higher probability to make it to the Final Four because of money expended.

If UVU wins the automatic bid, it could be the next big earner for the WAC. Teams that play more get paid more and teams that pay more, play more. Either way you look at it, making it into the big dance this season will be the determining factor of the future success of UVU’s basketball program.

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