The Money and The Madness

The first round of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament is over, and my bracket is already pretty busted, thanks Georgetown and UCLA! Maybe I should have listened to The New Yorker when picking my bracket. They offered the following tip for picking teams in the tournament, follow the money. Citing that when schools spend a lot on flashy facilities, big-name coaches, and better recruits, they tend to do well. They note that this year, the schools in the tournament spent a combined $340,000,000 on men’s basketball, with revenues expected around $540,000,000, with the individual schools spending between $16,000,000 (Duke, a 2 seed) and $535,000 (Southern, a 16 seed) on their programs.  They created a handy infographic to help illustrate the disparity in spending between schools, as well as help track the success of that spending.

Looking at the results of the tournament with knowledge about spending, adds an extra layer of impressiveness, outrage, and excitement. It wasn’t much of a surprise that all four number 1 seeds made it through to the second round, they spend a lot of money;  $155,192 (University of Kansas), $132,911 (Louisville), $109,495 (Indiana University), and $86,460 (Gonzaga) per basketball player. The first near surprise of the tournament, was when the number 3 seeded Marquette, whose expenses are estimated at $283,871 per basketball player, nearly lost to 14 seeded Davidson, which spends $15,378 per basketball player, the fifth lowest spending team in the tournament. The first big surprise came from Harvard (14 seed), with total basketball expenses at $1,225,999 their expenses per basketball player come in at $13,365, they defeated number 3 seed New Mexico, which has total expenses of $4,448,425, or $50,797 per player. The Harvard win, their first ever in the NCAA tournament, busted a few brackets and resulted in quite a few good laughs, but wasn’t as exciting or shocking as the Florida Gulf Coast University (15 seed) upset over Georgetown (2 seed). FGCU spends $15,779 per player, whereas Georgetown spends an average of $121,756 per player, more than a $100,000 difference per player!

The final four based on tuition costs

The final four based on tuition costs

It is neat to look at how much money a school spends on their basketball program, and it is cooler when you consider how much it costs to go to those schools.The Awl ran their own version of the tournament based on tuition. Tuition at FGCU is $5,352 while going to Georgetown will set you back $40,920, putting it in the final four of the most expensive tuition in the tournament, but ultimately it falls short to Bucknell which has the highest tuition of $45,132. 

It is clear that while money may help you along the way to the tournament, and may result in a higher seeding, come game day, none of that matters anymore, and if you play like FGCU did (see below), you are going to win, regardless of much you spent to get there, and that is part of the beauty of March Madness.

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