That NCAA tournament appearance is more valuable for more teams than you might think.
Making the NCAA tournament can mean the memory of lifetime for schools and their fan bases, but it can also mean a big pay day for teams that aren't anywhere close to making the cut.
The obsessed-over Big Dance is an NCAA cash cow, annually netting more than $700 million, according to a Washington Post report. Approximately $220 million of this will go in to what the NCAA labels its 'basketball fund,' which gets doled out not to schools, but to the athletic conferences those schools belong to.
Schools who have qualified for this week's field of 64 will earn their conference approximately $1.67 million, according to the report. The NCAA urges leagues to dole out this money equally to its member institutions over a six-year period.
The ante is upped for conferences with multiple teams in the field. The Mountain West Conference this year, for example, has three teams in the tournament. (Boise State, one of the three, lost Wednesday night in a play-in game to Dayton). Even if each of those teams lose their first tournament game, the Mountain West should still receive roughly $5 million in money over the next six years.
If the Mountain West chooses, as the NCAA suggests it does, to allocate this money evenly across all 11 of its schools, that means every school will receive roughly $454,000 over the following six years.
That means a school like San Jose State, which went 2-28 this season and failed to beat a Division I team this season, would receive $454,000 in tournament related payments, the same as 26-8 San Diego State.
For Power Five conferences like the Pac 12 and Big 10, tournament-related payments comprise a much smaller proportion of those revenues, according to the report. For leagues like the Southern Conference, West Coast Conference, Patriot League and Horizon League, these NCAA tournament revenue makes up a considerable majority of the money brought in throughout the year, and are therefore much more financially important.
Recent conference realignment has negatively affected schools' revenues. Money earned for a conference on behalf of a since-realigned team is paid out to the conference the team was a member of when they earned the payouts, not the conference the team has since realigned to, according to the report.
As a result, money brought in by teams like Villanova and St. John's when they were members of the since-dissolved Big East Conference are paid to the American Athletic Conference, its successor. Villanova and St. John's play in the new Big East Conference.
The tournament provides ample opportunity for a very different kind of payout: coaching bonuses. Wyoming men's coach Larry Shyatt - coaching a school that has not made the NCAA tournament since 2002 - had a provision in his contract stipulating he would receive a $15,000 bonus if his team made the field of 64, according to a report released by Newsday. Wyoming improbably won the Mountain West Conference championship and received an automatic berth to the tournament.
By winning his team's First Four game Tuesday against BYU, Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy received a $60,000 bonus for making the Field of 64. Had Ole Miss lost, but still made the tournament field of 68, he would not have made any bonus money.
Kansas State's Bruce Weber met a more unfortunate fate. Had his team made the tournament and advanced to the Round of 32, Weber would have received $296,000, the most of any Division I coach listed in the report. The Wildcats finished 15-17 and did not make the postseason.
- Will Green