Why Qualifying For The NCAA Tournament Is Important to Mid-Majors

Have you ever wondered why it’s so important for college programs to make the NCAA Tournament? If so, then read check out this excerpt from Michael Litos book:

A big portion of the $11 billion contract that CBS signed with the NCAA is wrapped up in what the NCAA calls it’s “Basketball Fund.” The fund is essentially monies sent to NCAA member schools for making the NCAA Tournament and advancing into deeper rounds.

According to the NCAA: The basketball fun provides for moneys to be distributed to Division 1 conferences based on their performance in the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship over a six-year rolling period (for the period 2000-2005 for the 2005-2006 distribution). Independent institutions receive a full unit share based on it’s tournament participation over the same rolling six-ear period. The basketball fund payments are sent to conferences and independent institutions in mid-April each year. One unit is awarded to each institution participating in each game, except the championship game. In 2004-05 each basketball unit was approximately $152,000 for a total $113.7 million distribution.

In short, over a six-year period a conference receives $152,000 per year, or a $912,000 cheque. To the Big 12 or Big 10 this may be a rounding error. To the MVC, it mean an additional $912,000 for each team that made the tournament, and one more share for each victory. When Maryland’s Drew Nicholas nailed a buzzer-beating, falling out of bounds, three-point shot to beat UNCW in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, it truly was a million dollar shot.

It becomes a circular proposition: the money earned from the NCAA helps a conference (and thus it’s schools) gain exposure on television. It helps the teams not have to schedule buy games in order to help their individual budgets. This way, member schools have a little more freedom in the manner in which they schedule games. Top teams can schedule top non-conference opponents with the goal of winning marquee games and impressing the selection committee, while at the same time not taking a huge RPI hit and avoiding he dreaded “bad loss.” Weaker teams can schedule smartly, getting themselves victories as opposed to shellacking in Lawence Kansas, or Durham, North Carolina. Winning – whether at the top or bottom of the conferences – fuels interest from fans and recruits, which fuels more winning, higher RPI, more exposure, and, or course, more NCAA Tournament berths. This all means another $912,000 check (or $152,000 over six years) and a better chance at winning in the tournament, and then the cycle begins anew.


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