What is the NCAA Basketball Tournament fund and how does it work?

How does The NCAA Tournament Basketball Fund Work?

The NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament rakes in a ton of cash for the NCAA, a non-profit organization. The tournament is a bettors holiday and we’re all eager to bet on games or college basketball national championship odds. Teams play 68 games over 21 days to help earn their program or conference some notable cash from the multibillion-dollar NCAA Basketball Performance Fund.

With March Madness right around the corner, the league is starting to see the dollar signs. But, you might be asking, who gets the money? How is it distributed? Keep reading to find the lowdown on the NCAA Tournament basketball fund.

Looking to bet on the upcoming March Madness action? Check out our NCAA picks to see how the teams are looking leading up to the Big Dance.

What’s the NCAA Tournament Basketball Fund?

Courtesy of the media, the NCAA Tournament brings in piles of revenue. First of all, the tournament signed a hefty contract with CBS and Turner Sports. The deal gave the two outlets exclusive media rights for the bargain of $10.8 billion across 14 years and was set to expire in 2024. I guess CBS and Turner Sports are pleased and have already signed an eight-year extension of that contract that will bring in $8.8 billion between 2025 and 2032.

On top of that annual revenue, more money is pocketed through ticket sales or school merchandise. The pile of money earned by that year’s March Madness is then distributed to Division 1 parties through the fund – which probably leads into our next question...

How Does the Basketball Fund Work?

Excluding the national championship and including the First Four, each time a school plays a contest during the tournament, it earns a unit for their conference. For example, if the Alabama Crimson Tide appear in a game, then the SEC will be tallied one unit. Last season, a single unit was worth about $338,887. The amount is distributed to the conference each year for six years, which would have begun in 2022. If my calculator is correct, which it always is, that would signify that one unit is worth a whopping $2,033,322 over the six-year span. 

From there, it is up to the conferences how they wish to use or give out the funds to their members. The league says it urges the conferences to hand out the money evenly and fairly. This method gives schools the same opportunity for success. For example, the Big Ten’s Nebraska Cornhuskers have played in seven NCAA Tournament games, carrying an 0-7 record – they are the only power conference program to not pick up a tournament win. However, they will still get some funding for their team without directly having much to do with earning the money. While most conferences do follow that rule of thumb, it’s not rare you will see a little extra cash given to a school based on its noteworthy performance. 

How Much does the NCAA Make From March Madness?

The NCAA brings in an estimated one billion dollars each year from March Madness. That money is earned through ticket sales, media rights, merchandise sales, television ads and corporate sponsorships. The largest component of that revenue is from the long-term TV partnerships with CBS and Turner Sports. The second-biggest stream of revenue from the tournament is ticket sales. The ticket prices vary based on tournament location and particular matchups. In 2022, the cheapest tickets for the Final Four were around $300 and the most expensive ones ranged from $5,000 up to nearly $40,000.

NCAA Tournament Basketball Fund FAQ

Do NCAA Basketball Athletes Get Paid From The Tournament?

No, the players themselves don’t get any direct compensation from the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the money is given to their conferences and distributed from there. 


How Many Teams Play During March Madness?

There are 68 teams featured in March Madness, including the First Four. The tournament is played across three weeks. This year, March Madness will start on Tuesday, March 14, and end on Monday, April 3.

Which Conference Earned The Most Funds In 2022 March Madness?

The Atlantic Coast Conference brought home about $36.4 million from the 2022 March Madness. The ACC had five teams qualify for the tournament, with Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels advancing to the Final Four. The payout will be awarded throughout the following six years.

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