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NCAA Revenue Distribution Plan and Payouts

Update as of 3/16/22 6:45 p.m.: Unit values by year updated with new information from the NCAA

The vast majority of the NCAA’s revenue comes from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. We’ve detailed below the NCAA’s revenue and expenses based on financial statements and other information gathered from the NCAA.

Where does NCAA revenue come from?

According to the NCAA’s audited financial statement for the 2021 fiscal year, revenue broke down as follows:

Television and marketing rights: $915.78 million

Championship and NIT tournaments: $61.05 million

Investment income, net: $60.91 million

Sales, services and other: $32.92 million

Loss of revenue insurance: $81.05 million

Contributions – facilities: $3.30 million

Total revenue: $1.155 billion

What are the NCAA’s expenses?

Total expenses: $1.033 billion

Per the NCAA’s audited financials, these were the expenses for fiscal year 2021:

  Division I Distributions, Championships and Programs Division II Distributions, Championships and Programs Division III Distributions, Championships and Programs Association-Wide Programs Management and General Totals
2020-21
Distributions, grants, and scholarships $613,563,071 $11,999,706 $4,902,770 $3,309,240 $739,162 $634,513,949
Insurance, interest, and depreciation $293,617 $122,880 $40,960 $22,749,355 $8,578,620 $31,785,432
Compensation $18,409,430 $5,887,971 $3,228,421 $36,171,406 $21,206,542 $84,903,770
Event operations $39,740,314 $4,178,741 $2,656,046 $9,093,029 $370,186 $56,038,316
Facilities, technology, and office $3,251,506 $106,771 $42,060 $1,819,334 $6,376,882 $11,596,553
Professional services $40,377,504 $8,942,199 $3,908,578 $69,470,246 $5,449,186 $128,147,713
Travel $66,935,446 $9,194,621 $8,430,059 $1,127,676 $490,420 $86,178,222
Total expenses $782,570,888 $40,432,889 $23,208,894 $143,740,286 $43,210,998 $1,033,163,965

How is NCAA revenue distributed?

The revenue distribution breakdown below is from information provided by the NCAA.

Revenue Distribution Breakdown

Sport Sponsorship and Scholarship Funds: $222 million

This fund is distributed to Division I schools to assist in funding sports and scholarships for student athletes.

Division I Basketball Performance Fund: $168.8 million

This fund is distributed based on performance in the men’s basketball tournament, where each appearance (with the exception of the championship game) earns the institution a unit (the value of which changes each year). Payouts are based on a six-year rolling period. These funds are used to fund sports and provide scholarships to student athletes.

Division I Championships: $153.8 million

This fund supports championship events, including team travel, food and lodging.

Student Assistance Fund: $86.6 million

The Special Assistance Fund can be used for summer school, fifth or sixth year aid, tutoring, international student fees and taxes, graduate program exam fees, educational supplies, insurance premiums, medical expenses, psychological treatment and more.

Student-Athlete Services and Championship Support: $64.5 million

This fund is used for catastrophic injury insurance, drug testing, student athlete leadership programs, postgraduate scholarships and additional Association-wide championships support.

Division I Equal Conference Fund: $53.6 million

This fund is distributed equally between all Division I basketball-playing conferences, as long as they meeting athletic and academic standards. It is used to fund sports and scholarships for student athletes.

Academic Enhancement Fund: $49.2 million

This fund is used to assist Division I institutions with academic programs and services.

Division II Allocation: $53.3 million

This funds championships, grants and other initiatives for Division II student athletes.

Membership Support Services: $23.3 million

This fund is used to cover costs related to NCAA governance committees and the annual NCAA Convention.

Division III Allocation: $35.2 million

This funds championships, grants and other initiatives for Division III student athletes.

Division I Conference Grants: $10 million

These grants are distributed to Division I conferences for programs that enhance officiating, compliance, minority opportunities and more.

Educational Programs: $3.8 million

This fund supports various educational services for members to help student athletes for life, including the Emerging Leaders Seminars and the Pathway Program.

Other Association-Wide Expenses: $58.4 million

This funds Association-wide expenses such as legal services, communications and business insurance.

General and Administrative Expenses: $44.8 million

This funds the day-to-day operations of the NCAA national office, including administrative and financial services, information technology and facilities management.

NCAA March Madness Distribution by Unit

Revenue distributed through the Basketball Performance Fund and the Equal Conference Fund are based on a six-year rolling period based on performance in the tournament. Note that because of COVID-19, 2020 will be a zero in that calculation for six years after.

Through the Equal Conference Fund, one unit is awarded to each automatic qualifier, and then through the Basketball Performance Fund, a unit is awarded for each at-large berth. From there, an additional unit is awarded for each subsequent game a team plays, with the exception of the championship game. 

You can see an example of how this would play out for a team while 2020 is in the rolling period here.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Unit Values by Year

2022 basketball performance fund unit value: $338,210.96, 2022 equal conference fund unit value: $338,887.38

Notes: In 2021 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament a conference was unable to participate due to COVID, therefore, an additional at-large bid was awarded which slightly decreased the basketball performance fund unit value.

2021 basketball tournament unit value: $337,141.04

2020 basketball performance fund unit value: $87,673.53, 2020 equal conference fund unit value: $279,334.38

Notes: Tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19. Board of Governors approved a reduction in Division I Revenue Distribution to account for the 2020 loss of tournament revenue with exception of equal conference fund which remained at the original budgeted amount.

2019 basketball tournament unit value: $280,367.44

2018 basketball tournament unit value: $273,529.21

Notes: First year the basketball tournament unit value was divided into two funds basketball performance fund (At-Lg and advance in tournament) and the equal conference fund (AQ).

2016 basketball tournament unit value: $260,814.25

2015 basketball tournament unit value: $255,379.49

2014 basketball tournament unit value: $250,105.94

2013 basketball tournament unit value: $245,513.69

Academic-Based Distribution

Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, the NCAA began setting aside 75% of the annual increase in its multimedia rights contract with CBS/Turner to create an academic distribution unit similar to the participation units awarded during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. After the first six years, the percentage of growth for the academic unit will equal the percentage applied to all other distributions.

2020-21 COVID-19 Payout Adjustments

I wrote a detailed breakdown of how the cancellation of games in 2020 impacted payouts in 2021 and will continue to have an impact for the next few years since payouts are done on a six-year rolling basis.