The prospect of an athletic department losing money during postseason play isn’t all that shocking, as it’s something we’ve become used to seeing in major college football. But this isn’t seen to be the case in college basketball, with their being four postseason events (as opposed to 35 bowl games) and the NCAA tournament raking in all kinds of revenue dollars for the NCAA and its participating conferences and schools.
And when a team that hasn’t seen as much of the national spotlight as the “usual suspects” makes a deep run, the benefits of increased national exposure include an increase in apparel money and more often than not an increase in applicants as well. Those are rewards that Wichita State will likely reap due to their run to last season’s Final Four (and their hot start to the current season) in the years to come.
However according to a report from Forbes Magazine, the Shockers actually lost money in the short-term. The program saw its expenses, in which Forbes included coaching bonuses, rise to $5.4 million last season with extra travel being one area of impact. While that isn’t a large sum for say, a Kentucky or Kansas, that isn’t exactly a small amount for a program that doesn’t receive as much national attention.
But while direct spending skyrocketed, the prize money payouts were minimal. The NCAA’s tournament distributions are spread out over six-year rolling periods, with conferences receiving around $1.5 million for every tournament game played by member schools. Put another way, that means Wichita State’s performance last year will net the Missouri Valley Conference more than $7.5 million over the next six years.
That number shrinks quite a bit, however, when broken down to the per-school level. Rege Klitzke, the head of the Wichita State Athletic Department’s business office, says that, after the conference gets a share, the NCAA distribution amounts to an extra $70,000 to $80,000 for the school each year. According to Klitzke, “From a strictly numbers standpoint, [the financial gains] are not as substantial as some people tend to think.”
Once again, this is merely a short-term “loss” that more than a few athletic departments experience during the month of March. But given the long-term benefits and the essentially “free” advertising that can come as a result of a deep tournament run, it’s a trade-off any school would be willing to make.