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Good Question: What’s Winning Worth In College Sports?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When talking Gopher rivals at the University of Minnesota campus, Wisconsin and Iowa top the list.

There’s no love for the border rivals even if the Gophers are out of it.

“No Hawkeyes or Badgers, ever. I just can’t do it,” said one student.

But maybe he should cheer for Bucky Badger.

“In the Big Ten we cheer for each other,” said Marc Ryan, senior associate athletics director for the University of Minnesota.

And there’s a good reason why they cheer for each other. All the teams in the Big Ten share revenue.

The sports that make the money are college football and men’s basketball. If a Big Ten team plays in a BCS bowl game, like Wisconsin did this year, that brings in about $18 million for the conference.

“Everybody gets a piece of the pie,” Ryan said.

It’s the same with basketball. The Big Ten had six teams in the NCAA tournament this year. Each time they played a tournament game, they brought in more than $200,000 to be spread evenly across the conference.

“It is a big deal to have Big Ten teams,” Ryan said. “We all pull for each other mainly because there are bragging rights at stake, too.”

Unfortunately, not all sports are moneymakers. The Gophers women’s hockey team won a national title, but the conference won’t see any money from that. The Gophers wrestling team won the national dual championships, but that won’t bring in much. And even if the mens’ hockey team wins the Frozen Four this weekend, it won’t mean as much monetarily as a Purdue win in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.

But there are other advantages to winning in non-money-making sports.

“It’s great for the program, the university, the community,” Ryan said. “Certainly it helps with recruiting. A national championship is a national championship. It’s the greatest accomplishment you can have as a team at the collegiate level.”

And national championships bring notoriety. Thanks to revenue sharing though, each Big Ten school received $22 million last year from bowl games, NCAA tournament games, and TV revenue. It proves the Big Ten needs to be under the big lights, to make money — and plenty of touchdowns and slam dunks help, too.

“We are 12 schools working together,” Ryan said.

In the Big Ten, the money received from a BCS bowl game or NCAA game is spread evenly over six years between all the teams.

So, really, a win for one is a win for all. But keep in mind, only BCS bowls and the NCAA tournament count as wins, money-wise.

An NIT final appearance by the Gophers men’s basketball team doesn’t earn the conference any money. In fact, the school actually has to pay out for travel.

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