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March 27, 2004

March Madness Money Machine

FROM THE MARCH MADNESS MONEY MAW comes a new round of criticism and second-guessing about the appropriateness of revenue disbursement among participant schools.

Questions and disapproval are yearly accessories to March Madness, but this year they have taken on especially conspicuous attention due to escalating awareness of bad apples in college athletics.

Starting with the money, here’s how it comes in:

• CBS’ jumbo $6 billion (that's with a “b”) 11-year multi-sport rights package

• $389 million in TV rights will come to the NCAA from this year’s tournament

• $35 million will come in from ticket sales

• an estimated $3.5 billion (that's with a “b”) will be bet illegally on the games--including online wagering

Here’s where the tournament plunder goes:

• Of the total projected $425 million in revenues this year, 60% will be distributed to the 31 conferences and 326 schools in Division I.

• $105 million will be distributed based on how many sports schools offer and how many athletes they have on scholarship

• Another $105 million will be awarded based on how far schools make it in the tournament.

• The big stay big. The structure preserves the strength of the big conferences. The six major conferences --ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC-- took home over 60% of disbursals last year.

Many reformers would prefer to reward schools for their academic performance as well as their success in advancing through the tournament. Like maybe linking tournament revenue directly to graduation rates.

Terry Holland, the former Virginia basketball coach, suggests monetary incentives for scholarship players whose SAT score exceeds that of 75% of the previous incoming class.

(this excerpt was sourced from the Wall Street Journal of 3-16-04)