The NCAA Mens’ basketball tournament is going to make over 700 million dollars this year, but the athletes playing in the games will see none of it. Instead, the NCAA has devised a complex, byzantine system to divide the money among all the various participating conferences with some making out better than others. For bigger conferences, this money gets spread across all it’s school; for smaller conferences, however, this money is a major chunk of these conferences total annual budgets and sometimes award money to certain school based on their own internal formulas.
The total pool of revenue from television revenue and ticket sales is referred to as \”The Basketball Fund”, and is distributed among the various conference based on how far each respective conference teams involved in March Madness progress in the tourney. Sixty percent of the money made from the tourney is awarded to the conferences. This amount is divided into units equaling approximately 1.8 million dollars over a time span of six years. The more games a school wins in the tourney, the more units of the total amount it can win. A school whose team makes it all the way to the Final Four stands to make over 8 million dollars from the pool of funds given to conferences spread out over six years. This makes the monetary reward more important to school officials than the prestige associated with playing in and winning the tournament. And larger conferences who often have multiple school participating in the tourney can make millions per year just for having more than a few participants and spread out the money evenly among their schools.
For smaller conferences, however, going far into the NCAA basketball tourney can provide dramatic financial windfall that can not only provide better campus facilities and programs, but pay higher salaries to coaches and conference commissioners. In fact, success in the tournament can actually lead to major pay raises for commissioners as winnings from \”The Basketball Fund\” get paid out over the course of their careers.
However, none of this money gets paid out to the players who participate in these games. Conference officials argue that the educational scholarships are payment enough. But many opposed to the idea of amateurs making money for conference think players should at least receive payment that allowed student-players to meet expenses for food and rent, not the prestige of college traditions.