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Good Question: What Is Winning The NCAA Tourney Worth?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While getting to the Final Four is a big deal, winning it is even bigger. But how much do schools directly benefit from winning the championship game?

Direct Money

Schools can earn huge bonus money by making it to the Final Four, but they don’t directly get the money, nor do they earn any additional money for making it to the championship game. The NCAA pays using a formula designed around “units.”

Each game a team plays in, except the championship game, is one unit. This year units are valued at $245,500. It takes five games to get to the championship game, so getting there is worth $1.2 million. That money is paid out repeatedly for six years. The money goes to the team’s conference, so Michigan’s money goes to the Big Ten, Louisville is currently in the Big East.

With the annual increase in the unit value, getting to the Final Four this year is worth nearly $10 million!

Most conferences share their pot of NCAA money with all their colleges. So the University of Minnesota benefits from Michigan’s success.

Coaches

The real winners of the championship are the coaches, who have performance incentives built into their contracts. University of Michigan’s John Beilein gets a $25,000 bonus for winning it all. Louisville coach Rick Pitino gets a $150,000 bonus for being the national champion.

Fundraising

The schools get a direct money boost. Forbes looked at the average national championship team and found their revenue went up 14 percent the following year. On average, that’s a 14.2 percent increase for a championship team.

Just getting to the big game can mean big money for schools. Butler University reported having its best fundraising year in history the year they lost in the championship game.

The same happened with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), according to spokesman Michael Porter.

“Athletics giving increased 376 percent. Overall giving is up 46 percent. And VCU has received requests from 25 new cities to add alumni chapters,” Porter said.

Tom Weede, Butler’s vice-president of enrollment management, says he received some very lucrative phone calls.

“I took a call personally from someone who said, ‘Loved what I’ve seen, I’d like to donate $25,000,’” Weede said. “Season ticket sales have gone up significantly. We saw alumni participation increase.”

Increased Applications

The excitement and the exposure isn’t just a big deal with alums. Applications for the general student body can take a leap as well.

After VCU made the Final Four in 2011, they saw their applications go up by 1,700 students – around 11 percent.

Butler saw an even more dramatic increase of 43 percent after two years in the Final Four.

“We saw the quality of the students go up, the geographic diversity go up. One of the things that’s really important for our story – we could not have sat down and dreamed up a story that was as good as the one that came out,” Weede said.

In 2010, Butler’s team went to class the day of the championship day.

The school did a study that valued all of the free publicity the school got at more than $600 million.

“There’s absolute truth to that. What do you measure of advertising? We looked at the value of the actual airtime on games,” he said. “For the way the story came out, when the games were played it was like having a documentary about Butler because the story was so unusual.”

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