Category Archives: Basketball

Should Kansas Jump on the Luxury Suite Bandwagon?

By: Victoria Baldwin

In 2012, Louisville’s basketball program brought in more than $42.4 million in revenue.

Kristi Dosh, founder of and author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, attributes the high revenue to luxury suites at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.

Victoria's Basketball Suite Graphic 1

Louisville is just one school taking advantage of revenue from luxury suites. Syracuse’s Carrier Dome brings in millions to the program, and Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are making arrangements to add suites to their historic arenas.

The KFC Yum! Center is home to 72 luxury suites at $85,000 to $92,000 a piece. They generate more than $6 million in revenue. That’s just for rent. Tickets, donations, fees, food and drinks come with an additional cost.

Louisville attaches donations ranging from $250 to $2,500 to the rights of season tickets and that’s not including the price of the actual ticket.

“Adding those suites gives them the ability to tack on the annual fee that is the right to purchase fee on the suite and that is where you make the money,” Dosh said.

The basketball program isn’t the only benefactor. The revenue from luxury suites goes into the general athletic fund that benefits other Louisville sports.

“In the last 14 to 15 years under (athletics director) Tom Zurich, every single sport, with the exception of football, got a brand new facility,” Dosh said. “They’re using that money to prop up the other sports that aren’t making any.”

While Louisville is leading the pack, basketball-rich Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are in different stages of adding suites to their historic arenas.

Kentucky released renovation plans during the summer to add suites to Rupp Arena, while Duke is raising money to add bunker suites in place of old basketball offices. Cameron Indoor doesn’t have the space newer facilities have, and they’re planning the bunker suites so they don’t lose thousands of seats in the bowl area that bring in high donations.

In February, North Carolina’s athletic director Bubba Cunningham said he would be interested in adding luxury suites but recently there have been talks of building a completely new arena.

Suites are not suitable

The University of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse has been home to five national championship teams and dozens of conference titles.

Although Kansas basketball has a 200-game sellout streak dating back to the 2001-02 season, the Jayhawks’ revenues are ranked No. 13 in the country at $16.4 million. Allen Fieldhouse holds 16,300 fans with little room for luxury suites.

Victoria's Basketball Suite Graphic 2

“For a school that has a history of sellouts like that, I think they are leaving money on the table,” Dosh said. “Based on what I’ve seen at schools who do have suites and who do have that sort of demand, there are definitely millions of dollars.”

Greg Gurley, director of development for KU’s Williams Fund, a fundraising arm of the athletics department, said Kansas has the high demand to fill the suites but the renovations could ruin the history of Allen Fieldhouse.

“If we had basketball suites, there would be a line out the door to get them,” Gurley said. “The question is how do we do it? More importantly, do you want to change the integrity of the building by adding suites? That’s the question to ask.”

Kansas is in a struggle between reaping the rewards of the luxury suite boom and losing valuable, reasonably-priced tickets for the average fan. Gurley said at this time there haven’t been any serious discussions to add luxury suites to Allen Fieldhouse.

Martin Haynes, an architect at 360 Architecture in Kansas City, was the designer who proposed the bunker suite plan for Duke based on a study he did years ago.

Haynes said Kansas could only add suites to the upper bowl area on the North side of Allen Fieldhouse between the parking garage and the arena.

“At the very top of the bowl, you could blow out the wall and create suites at that level,” Haynes said. “It’s something you could do. Anywhere else it really would just destroy the integrity of Allen Fieldhouse.”

Allen Fieldhouse is home to one of the best home court advantages in the country because of how close students are to the court. Gurley, who also played at Kansas from 1992-95, said adding suites would ruin this atmosphere.

“That’s why all of the media people that come to Lawrence, it would be hard pressed to find anybody, even if they were a fan of another school, to not feel like Allen Fieldhouse is the coolest or one of the coolest places in the country to watch a basketball game,” Gurley said.

While the rest of the basketball “Blue Bloods” renovate their stadiums to bring in millions of dollars, Kansas fans will have historic Allen Fieldhouse to enjoy for quite a bit longer.

“I hope Allen Fieldhouse is there for 100 more years, but that’s just me,” Gurley said.


Victoria is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in journalism with a focus on broadcasting. To see more of her recent work, visit her website:

Highest Grossing Football and Basketball Programs

ESPN The Magazine has a great infographic about Louisville being the most profitable basketball program in the country.

What’s most impressive, however, is how much revenue Louisville basketball generates compared to most major college football programs. For fiscal year 2012, the Cardinals basketball program ranked 22nd amongst FBS-level football and basketball programs:

School Sport Revenue
1 Texas Football $103,813,684
2 Michigan Football $85,209,247
3 Alabama Football $82,302,856
4 Auburn Football $77,170,241
5 Georgia Football $74,989,418
6 Florida Football $74,317,435
7 Louisiana State Football $69,427,009
8 Notre Dame Football $68,986,659
9 Arkansas Football $64,193,826
10 Ohio State Football $63,866,161
11 Oklahoma Football $59,825,653
12 Tennessee Football $56,884,706
13 Nebraska Football $55,063,437
14 Florida State Football $54,294,429
15 Washington Football $53,092,369
16 Oregon Football $51,952,732
17 Iowa Football $51,110,343
18 Michigan State Football $50,159,347
19 South Carolina Football $49,598,334
20 Wisconsin Football $48,416,449
21 Texas A&M Football $44,420,762
22 Louisville Basketball $42,434,684
23 Clemson Football $39,207,781
24 Virginia Tech Football $38,382,042
25 Oklahoma State Football $37,744,529

To sum it up, Louisville basketball rakes in more dough than all but five Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 football programs. And that’s with the Big East’s television contract. As I wrote last year, Louisville’s move to the ACC has the potential to make it one of the top-10 most profitable athletic departments in the country.

If you’re interested, Louisville football comes in at #54 on the combined football/basketball revenue ranking.

Here’s a look at the top-10 highest-grossing basketball programs (with their rank among football programs in the second column):

Basketball Program Rank Basketball’s Rank Among Football and Basketball Programs School Revenue
1 22 Louisville $42,434,684
2 43 Syracuse $25,888,761
3 45 Duke $25,665,732
4 51 North Carolina $24,881,106
5 60 Kentucky $21,598,681
6 63 Arizona $20,749,807
7 66 Michigan State $19,807,794
8 68 Texas $18,478,467
9 70 Indiana $18,289,795
10 71 Ohio State $18,121,349

And no, before you ask, it’s not because Louisville sells alcohol at its basketball  games. Louisville reported just over $1 million from concessions, programs and parking revenue.

KFC Yum! Center has allowed Louisville to keep up with the top football programs by allowing it to profit off 71 luxury suites and numerous other premium seating areas. The suites lease for a whopping $85,000 – $92,000 annually, depending on size, location and the length of the lease. Just 12 percent of that lease fee goes to KFC Yum! Center, with the athletic department banking the rest.

With the exception of seven student sections and four sections with no donation requirement, the other seats in the arena command a donation anywhere from $250 – $2,500 to the Cardinal Athletic Fund.

Compare that to Syracuse. The Carrier Dome has 40 suites, which carry a donation requirement of $50,000 – $83,900. In other words, they top out at an amount lower than Louisville’s cheapest suite. Donations tied to other seats top out at $725, compared to Louisville’s $2,500. Although Syracuse averaged almost 1,000 more fans per game than Louisville last season (and is already tracking 10% higher for season tickets sales this season compared to last), that amounted to just 64.08 percent of capacity at the Carrier Dome. Meanwhile, the Cardinals averaged 97.65 percent capacity. So, while Syracuse is able to capitalize on suite revenue, unlike many college basketball programs who lack suites, the sheer size of the Carrier Dome (approximately 13,000 seats more than KFC Yum! Center) impacts demand and, along with it, donation levels.

Other top programs Duke, UNC and Kentucky lack suites, and the revenue they bring, altogether. They all seem to be in some stage of adding suites, however. Plans for the <ahref=”–construction-company-named-for-Rupp-Arena-renovations-214919071.html” target=”_blank”>renovation of Rupp Arena released this summer call for the addition of suites. In October 2012, Duke posted information about its latest fundraising campaign, which includes plans for “bunker suites.” Those suites would reportedly be built under and behind the seating bowl. A spokesman for Duke tells me no final decisions have been made. Nearby in Chapel Hill, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham has also mentioned the possibility of adding suites to the Dean Smith Center, but again the athletic department says that currently there are no final plans.

Simply put, all of these schools are losing out on millions, if not tens of millions, in revenue by not having suites. While it takes success on the court to capitalize on those suites, you simply can’t maximize the value of your program without them. Which, by the way, means no one is catching up with Louisville anytime soon.


Note: Financial data in the charts above is derived from disclosures filed with the NCAA for public universities and from reports filed with the Department of Education for private universities.

Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.

Why Women’s College Basketball Operates At A Deficit

University-of-AlabamaAlabama Women’s Basketball has announced a new booster club: the Crimson Tide Center Court. A quick look at Alabama women’s basketball’s financials seemingly underscores the need for such a booster club. For fiscal year 2012, the program reported no donations. Ticket sales, conference distributions, licensing, sports camps and other revenues totaled $493,743 for the program, but that wasn’t even enough to cover the $529,072 the athletic department had to send to the university to cover the tuition, room and board of the women’s basketball student athletes, forget paying coaching salaries, travel, equipment, game day and other expenses. At the end of the day, Alabama women’s basketball operated at a deficit of $2.4 million.

Alabama’s situation is not unlike most women’s basketball programs in the country. Although Alabama’s basketball program went 13-18 last season, even the most successful teams on the court struggle with donor support. UConn women’s basketball reported $389,033 in contributions on its financial disclosures. Although higher than UConn men’s basketball ($218,324), it paled in comparison to football’s $2.7 million in donations. Like Alabama, women’s basketball at UConn finished the year at a deficit: $1.3 million.

Louisville, who’s women’s basketball program played for the title against UConn last season, reported women’s basketball donations at $193,074. Nowhere close to the $20.4 million the men’s basketball program brought in – although, it should be noted that no basketball program in the country, men’s or women’s, comes close to Louisville men’s basketball in that department. Louisville women’s basketball joined Alabama and UConn in finishing the year at a financial deficit of $2.3 million.

Football and men’s basketball donations are bolstered by donations required for the right to purchase season tickets, which can be a lofty sum when tickets are in demand. In fact, as I detail in my book Saturday Millionaires, donations to the top football and basketball programs can sometimes be twice as much as television revenue, mistakenly believed by many to be the largest source of revenue for athletic departments.

Women’s basketball, along with every other sport a school sponsors, simply doesn’t have that revenue source. As you can see below, donations to women’s basketball in the SEC are either non-existent or extremely low compared to donations to men’s basketball and football.

University Contributions to Women’s Basketball Contributions to Men’s Basketball Contributions to Football
Alabama $0 $645,136 $18,679,937
Arkansas $0 $3,660,681 $17,370,567
Auburn $237,692 $2,046,352 $27,051,405
Florida $0 $1,791,862 $35,871,054
Georgia $26,386 $721,265 $26,944,091
Kentucky $0 $0 $0 *
Louisiana State $168,856 $2,815,161 $22,376,287
Mississippi $153,821 $1,144,588 $3,105,908
Mississippi State $6,010 $30,175 $0 **
Missouri $31,848 $885,080 $1,293,282
South Carolina $0 $184,544 $9,746,213
Tennessee $2,070,124 $1,235,289 $12,499,404
Texas A&M $39,127 $1,284,743 $8,303,578
Vanderbilt ***

Source: NCAA financial disclosures filed by each university

* Kentucky does not break down contributions by sport on its report

** I’ve asked Mississippi State about this in the past, and they don’t move money over from their booster club for football unless they need the additional revenue

*** Vanderbilt is not subject to open records requests because it is a private university

A couple of caveats on the chart above. First, the amount shown for football donations isn’t necessarily all of the money donated for football in a year, it’s simply the amount the athletic department accepted for the year. Let me explain. Most athletic departments receive donations through a fund-raising entity. If a donation was earmarked for football, but taking in that revenue and spending it on the football program would throw financials out of whack for Title IX purposes, the fund-raising entity will put that money aside for the future.

Here’s an explanation straight from my book, Saturday Millionaires:

The Office of Civil Rights has previously offered this interpretation with regards to boosters or other donors who donate funds for specified sports: “a school cannot use earmarked funds as an economic justification for discrimination.”

In other words, the school can honor the sport-specific designation for such donated funds, but it still must comply with the proportionality requirement. It cannot dedicate those funds to football, throwing the proportionality out of whack, and then say they had to do so because the funds were earmarked. The excess funds that cannot be applied simply have to be put aside for the future, or they can be applied and revenue from other sources can be moved out of football in order to maintain compliance.

Bottom line: just because it looks like your school is receiving the most donations for football from the chart above doesn’t mean it’s true.

As you can clearly see, however, women’s basketball is a long way from raking in the kind of money men’s basketball and football can generate from donations. Will booster clubs geared specifically toward women’s basketball, like the Crimson Tide Center Court club change that? It’s unlikely, but they can certainly help generate some excitement for the program and bring fans together with the team. In the end, I would imagine that’s Alabama’s goal, especially given that Alabama women’s basketball is getting a new coach this year. A coach who will make a reported $400,000 a year – 81% of the program’s total revenue.

If you have more interest in the Crimson Tide Center Court, here are some additional details… Read the rest of this entry

LeBron James Recruiting for Ohio State Baskeball?

“For me, I can’t worry about what everybody says about me. I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here,” said by LeBron James after winning the Finals MVP this past year.  There wasn’t a shout out to Ohio State, nope, just to his hometown.

Anyone who’s been following his career knows that he never went to college. So then why would Ohio State have his name above a locker in their new basketball facility?

Let me ask you this, if you were a top recruit and visiting Ohio State and saw LeBron James name slapped to the top of a locker wouldn’t you be a bit more interested in attending that school?

I know I would.

According to Ohio State officials the reasoning behind devoting a locker to the Miami Heat player is to display James’ Nike line that is worn by the Buckeyes that include shoes, jerseys and warm-ups. Ohio State has been wearing different versions of his gear since the end of the 2006-07 season, where as Kentucky and Miami started wearing his gear in 2011.

James has always deemed himself a huge Buckeye fan, having been raised just two hours away from the campus. He has frequently been seen at high-profile games decked out in scarlet and gray.  Had he not been drafted out of high school and immediately gone pro, he would’ve likely attended the school.

Of course, coaches and schools will do anything to attain the best recruits they can get, and dropping a name has never hurt anyone.  It’s a sly recruiting tactic, whether it will work or not remains to be seen.

When Ohio State head coach Thad Matta was asked, “does that LeBron guy have a chance to contribute for you guys this year?” all he had to say was, “I think he is going to have to earn his stripes.”

Will Syracuse Attempt to Break All-Time Attendance Record?

What better way to make an entrance into a new conference than by breaking the NCAA’s all-time attendance record for an on-campus game? Syracuse is considering moving the basketball court to the middle of the Carrier Dome, as a one-time deal for the highly anticipated Duke game this upcoming season. The move to the middle of the court has the possibility of drawing in a crowd of 50,000 or more. The current record held by Syracuse is 30,012 set on February 23, 2013 when Syracuse hosted Georgetown for the last time as Big East rivals.

Moving the court would be Syracuse’s grand way of celebrating their recent membership into the ACC. Syracuse’s executive senior associate athletic director Joe Giansante told, “We had a wedding in New York City on July 1,” referring to the ACC welcoming Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the conference. “But there still needs to be a reception. We’re not sure what we’re going to do for that yet, but it’ll be special.“

The notion of Syracuse moving to center court (literally) of the Dome is not authentic; the idea has made its way to the drawing board in the past but has always stayed there.

Unfortunatel,y everyone working on the Hill has a lot has to take into consideration before they pick up the pieces of the court and move them: (1) whether or not the fire marshal gives them the okay for the project, (2) figuring out wiring set up for television crews for a one-time basis, and (3) taking on the challenge of moving season ticket holders and not having any complaints.

The current forced seating arrangement to the one half of the dome makes it feel more intimate and as if it is a full house each game.

Having a single game in the middle of the field you can’t just have fans seated 70 yards back from the end zones of the court.  And what about those with courtside seats, especially if they were to decide to play on a raised court?

Would making history and spending the money for one night outshine the hassle?

Duke isn’t the only big named program that the Orange will be hosting this season other teams include North Carolina in an ACC game and Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Whether or not Syracuse will move the court has yet to be confirmed or denied. The full basketball schedule will be released later this month soon following that tickets will go one sale, which is when we’ll find out whether or not Syracuse will be making history again.

“We’re going to look at all kinds of options to make our move to the ACC as special as possible,” Giansante said Thursday. ‘There are a lot of different things on the table to consider.”

Final Four Pumps Millions into Atlanta Economy

$70 million.

That’s the projected economic impact the 2013 Final Four will have on Atlanta this weekend. While none of Georgia’s home teams are contending in the Big Dance, the state still has plenty to celebrate with an estimated 100,000 out-of-town guests flocking to its capital. This is the fourth time Atlanta has hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four, but, as this year marks the 75th anniversary of March Madness, organizers expect the event to draw one of the largest crowds in tournament history.

The Georgia Dome, situated in the heart of downtown Atlanta, offers nearly 75,000 seats to spectators who are paying up to $1600 per ticket. Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks, will also play host to the Division II and III championships, luring an even wider fan-base. It’s not ticket sales that will be pumping dollars into the city’s bank account, though. Approximately 10,000 hotel rooms will be booked for the weekend, and the fine-dining establishments within driving distance from the Dome are jam-packed with reservations.

Drawing a crowd of this magnitude offers colossal opportunities to increase revenue. Hotels in metro Atlanta are showing spikes in nightly rates anywhere from 55-200 percent. According to, a King Room at the downtown Holiday Inn Express typically runs for $139 per night. This weekend, however, guests will pay around $382. The same model room at Hotel Indigo in midtown jumped from $129 to $406− an astounding 215 percent increase.

Though local businesses are certainly taking advantage of the chance to turn sizable profits, the city is not forgetting its dedication to Southern hospitality. The Georgia World Congress Center is offering plenty of fan festivities and Centennial Olympic Park will feature free concerts on Friday and Saturday, headlining artists such as Ludacris, Sting, Muse and the Dave Mathews Band.

In a struggling national economy, we rely on cultural staples to transcend financial strife. College sports will always be among these. While a trip to the Final Four (and especially a national title) will give hundreds of thousands back to coaches, universities, and conferences, the economic value of collegiate athletics can be appreciated across the board. This weekend, Atlanta, Georgia will be the obliged beneficiary.

Who Fans are Most Mad for March?

By: James Maddox

It’s a forgone conclusion that in this day and age large sporting events will have a huge social media influence. This past February’s Super Bowl helped generate 24.1 million tweets during “America’s Game.” Now, the holy grail for college basketball fans is taking the spotlight as March Madness gets prepared to crown the 2013 national champion. And it seems the Twitterverse has spoken when it comes to which school and fan base is making the most noise. 

Fizziology, a social media research company, recently did an analysis of the NCAA tournament based on organic discussion on Twitter this past Tuesday and Wednesday. Organic discussion in this sense is defined as discussion pertaining to anything related to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that users talk about on their own, without any prompt. The conversation was broken down as follows:

  • South region: 37%
  • Northeast region: 26%
  • Midwest: 21%
  • West region: 16%

It makes sense for the South region to lead in Twitter conversation. Louisville, the #1 overall seed, is in the South and Florida Gulf Coast has dominated headlines as they continue their miraculous tournament run. According to Fizziology, the South has 41% more conversation about March Madness than the Northeast, 79% more than the Midwest, and 124% more than the West on Selection Sunday. Keep in mind these regions refer to geographical regions and not necessarily the regions according to the tournament bracket.

With many of the 68 teams representing large metropolitan areas, it’s no surprise that the list of markets with the most Twitter users talking about March Madness reflected this as of 3/27/13: 

Designated Market Area (DMA)
1. New York
2. Washington, D.C.
3. Chicago
4. Atlanta
5. Los Angeles
6. Charlotte
7. Indianapolis
8. Philadelphia
9. Louisville
10. Dallas/Ft. Worth
11. Boston
12. San Francisco
13. Kansas City
14. Raleigh
15. Detroit

Fizziology was able to gather other interesting tidbits of data as well:

  • Overall conversation among Tweets was 59% positive, 37% neutral, 1% negative, and 3% mixed
  • Conversations regarding brackets constituted approximately 32% of the organic conversation.
  • 83% of those filling out brackets completed at least two, 5% filled out at least 5, 4% filled out at least 10, and another 4% filled out at least 15.

Furthermore, ViralHeat was able to summarize an interesting collection of information regarding the tournament with an info graphic titled “March Madness: The Journey to the Socially Sweet Sixteen.” Here is what they discovered:

  • Based on Twitter mentions the most talked about team among the Sweet 16 is the University of Miami with well over 312,000 mentions; the least talked about team is Michigan State with 29,980 mentions.
  • The most positive messages on social media were related to Wichita State with 66% positive sentiment; the lease positive messages were regarding Syracuse with 44% negative sentiment.
  • When Wichita State defeated Gonzaga, the Bulldogs’ overall positive sentiment dropped to 22% while Wichita State’s overall positive sentiment soared to 46%.
  • Florida Gulf Coast’s upset over San Diego State landed the FGCU Eagles as the only team in the top 3 for both total mentions and positive sentiment.
  • Based on a combination of the team’s seed and total social media attention, the social media world predicted Kansas, Indiana, Florida Gulf Coast, and Duke in the Final Four.

March Madness Social Media Buzz

Viralheat, a social analytic platform, has created the following infographic about social media buzz around March Madness.

Are you surprised to learn Miami is getting more mentions than FGCU? Or that Kansas-UNC was the most-mentioned game?

VCU: The ‘Smart’ Place to Go

By: Jason Singer

When Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) burst onto the NCAA Basketball scene in 2011 and made it all the way to the Final Four, nobody thought anything of it. Everyone, including the teams in their own region, thought VCU was just another Cinderella team, one that  managed to get the magic slipper for one year, and would never get back amongst the elite of Men’s basketball again.  

However, this has not been the case, as VCU has now reached the past three NCAA tournaments, and has won at least one game in all three years. Most recently, they gained their highest seeding ever (#5 seed), with an at large bid from the Atlantic-10 Conference, and defeating #12 Akron, in their 2nd round matchup.  

VCU has now gained popularity all over the country, with support from celebrities like Spike Lee, who made sure to see them play at their conference tournament at the Barclays Center this year. He even tweeted to the coach and the players:


As evidenced by Spike Lee’s enthusiasm for the team, the uproar of VCU basketball has clearly reached a national level. 

Shaka Smart, the Head Coach of VCU, exemplifies the image of the basketball team, school, and the city of Richmond, Virginia in general. For example, a professor from the University of Maryland, Ronald T. Rust, said it perfectly: “By highlighting him … (officials) project an image of the city — young, hip, multiethnic and successful — that is not necessarily Richmond’s current image.” Rust and many others say that by Smart staying in Richmond and not bolting for a bigger, more well-known university, he shows that there is reason for kids to come to VCU, whether they play basketball or not. The basketball program increases tourism, merchandising, and business growth in general, and makes students who are applying for colleges want to attend VCU, since the university and city are becoming more reputable as a result. 

Furthermore, the program has increased interest by companies and businesses throughout the fifty states, as those travelling through town may be inclined to go see a great team play basketball. Lee Warfield, a president of a commercial real estate brokerage firm, in Henrico County, Virginia, says that the success of the team is lifting the profile of the region, and in turn luring clients in. VCU, and Richmond, being shown on national television gives the region a positive image, which is the exact image that Warfield and other in the area want.

Of course, VCU has benefited from the basketball success in other ways as well, from apparel sales to applications to donations. Last year, Kristi Dosh wrote on that apparel sales in 2011 topped $1.3 million during March Madness, donations to athletics were up 376 percent and donations to the university were up 46 percent.

All in all, it seems that having Shaka Smart stay in Richmond to coach VCU Men’s Basketball, at a time when the program is becoming increasingly better, will continue to have great outcomes for the region. VCU has now became a force to be reckoned with in Men’s Basketball, and nobody will be taking them lightly for years to come. Personally, I look forward to seeing what they can do in future years, and can’t wait to see when Shaka Smart and his players are cutting down the nets after winning it all. 

Where Does All the NCAA Tournament Money Go?

With March Madness well underway many assume that money is just given back to athletic departments without question after a big win. While some of that is true, money does in fact go back to the athletic departments, much of it is earmarked for specific types of uses and not simply deposited for general use. In addition, the NCAA keeps a portion to fund its operations. 

A total of $504 million (62 percent) was returned back to the Division 1 conferences and member institutions after the 2011 -12 fiscal year. 

Every year the money made is divided into six primary shares: Academic Enhancement, Basketball, Grant-in-Aid, Student Assistance, Sports Sponsorship and Conference Grant. This is how it’s all broken down: 

Academic Enhancement Fund ($24.6 million): A payment of $68,000 is sent to each Division 1 institution to use for academic support service for student athletes. 

Basketball Fund ($202 million): This is the one category where money goes back into athletic departments with no direction for its use. The NCAA distributes money to the conferences based on how many teams participated in the men’s basketball tournament and how many games each team played. Conferences are encouraged to split the money equally to all schools, but some conferences provide stipends to those who actually participated in the games. The payment amount from the NCAA is determined by each school’s performance in the tournament based on a six-year rolling average. 

In the 2011 – 12 season, each school participating in each game, excluding the championship game, received one unit (payment) of $242,000. No units are awarded for the championship game. 

In 2012 – 13, each basketball unit is worth $245,500. 

Here is how much money one team would make as they advance through the tournament: 

Round 1: $245,500

Round 2: $491,000

Sweet 16: $736,500

Elite 8: $982,000

Final Four: $1,227,500

However, units have six-year lives, so projections by Forbes have a Final Four participant this year earning its conference $7.7 million over the life of the units.

Grant-In-Aid Fund ($134.7 million): Distribution of money to schools is decided based off the number of scholarships given out the previous year. 

Student Athlete Assistance Fund ($66.1 million): This fund is made up of two separate funds: the Student Athlete Opportunity Fund ($51 million) and Special Assistance Fund ($15.1 million). Any athlete can use the Student Athlete Opportunity Fund even after they no longer partaking due to medical reasons or have surpassed eligibility. Students apply to this fund for a variety expenses. For example, they could apply if they need assistance with graduate school application fees or testing fees. 

Sports-Sponsorship Fund ($67.3 million): The schools with more non-revenue sports receive more money. This fund is used to help inspire schools to sponsor more sports. 

Conference Grant ($8.3 million): This grant is used to enhance officiating programs, compliance and enforcement, diversity, and drug and gambling education.


With regards to the Student Athlete Assistance Fund, Maryland recently brought to light an interesting question of whether student athletes are utilizing the resources available to them. Maryland recently used funds from the Student Athlete Opportunity Fund to purchase iPads for all it student athletes. Given that Maryland recently cut sports, many were upset with the move. 

However, Maryland quickly issued a statement saying the funds were from the Student Athlete Opportunity Fund, monies from which cannot be used to fund operating expenses, but instead must be used for educational purposes. 

Curious as to why Maryland had enough money in its fund to buy the iPads, founder Kristi Dosh held an unofficial Twitter poll asking athletic administrators across the country whether or not student athletes utilize this money. Most of the responses Dosh received indicated that student athletes aren’t applying to use the funds, despite the administrator’s insistence that student athletes know about the fund. A couple inferred that perhaps the paperwork is too much trouble. Only one school, out of about a dozen, indicated its student athletes routinely use up all the money in the fund. 

Are you surprised at how March Madness money is divided up? For more information on just how much conferences take home from the tournament, check out Kristi’s piece from last year on

Follow Mackenzie on Twitter: @KenzieThirkill