The NCAA’s men basketball tournament attracts millions of viewers, many of whom gamble on the outcome. This year, 13 million brackets were filled out on ESPN. Of those, 99% were “busted” or “broken” after the first day – and only 17 people correctly picked all 16 teams of the Sweet 16 correctly. While the tournament provides a source of entertainment and competition for everyone interested, it provides quite a bit more to the NCAA, TV broadcasters, and a select few basketball programs.
No. 2 Michigan State lost to No. 15 Middle Tennessee in the first round, ruining many brackets.
March Madness is the NCAA’s most profitable enterprise, bringing in about $900 million in revenue each year. Most of this comes from broadcasting rights, which were sold to CBS and Time Warner in 2006 for a 14-year/$10.8 billion deal. In turn, CBS and Time Warner profit from advertisements during the games – overall ad spending in 2014 topped $1.1 billion. The NCAA also offers marketing opportunities to businesses, which can pay roughly $10 million to be “corporate partners.”
Fans, meanwhile, are expected to collectively wager $9 billion on the tournament – twice the amount usually wagered on the Super Bowl. Someone, somewhere, profits from this – but generally, it isn’t you or me.
The NCAA uses a formula to determine how much money to dole out to basketball programs. As commonly known, college athletes cannot be paid, either in cash or in goods, or else risk losing their “amateur” status and ability to play in the NCAA or other college sports. And while schools also provide a budget for their sports teams, money from the NCAA Basketball Fund can be very useful. However, very few teams actually come out on top from this. Usually, around 3% of men’s college basketball programs generate surpluses – and no women’s teams do. Kentucky, Villanova, Wisconsin and Duke are generally the only teams to turn a profit.
Should the NCAA be giving more to the teams that it uses to profit from? Should the players receive some sort of compensation for their hard work? I would argue yes to both.