Wichita State is making the Missouri Valley’s first appearance in the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana State made the same run in 1979. Aside from the free exposure that the journey is giving the school and the conference, the Missouri Valley is getting some good solid money from the NCAA.
The NCAA pays out money to conference based on the number of “basketball units” that a given league accrues over a six-year period. Forbes.com does a good job of explaining it in a recent piece on Wichita State:
A unit is earned for each game a conference member plays in the NCAA tournament, and the value of the unit escalates over the course of the afore-mentioned television contract. This year, one unit is worth approximately $250,000.
Note that each conference under this distribution system is assured of receiving at least 6 units annually (a scenario that would arise if a conference only placed one team in the tournament for 6 consecutive years, and their teams fail to win a single game).
With Wichita State making the Final Four and Creighton reaching the Round of 32, the Missouri Valley has cashed in with seven units so far in the 2013 NCAA tournament. That gives the conference earnings close to $1.75 million. For a mid-major conference, that’s a major pay day.
Part of that rise is likely attributed to more parity in college basketball, where an experienced non-BCS team has a chance against major conference schools who are stocked with younger talent.
For more on the economics of the NCAA tournament, click here from Forbes.com.