March Madness

The NCAA's 65 team College Basketball mega-tournament generates unforgettable drama and close to a billion dollars in revenue each spring. So the people who generate those memories, say 1995 tournament MVP Ed O'Bannon, must be rich ... right?

Just The Facts

  1. March Madness is run by the NCAA, a non-profit organization that governs college basketball.
  2. The NCAA is an advocate of the student athlete and upholds the lofty ideal of amateurism.
  3. Through its corporate sponsorships and television deals, the NCAA takes in billions of dollars (tax free) each year.

Popularity of the Tournament

Chick Dunking Basketballs

While some follow the tournament to watch scholars from institutes of higher learning compete on the athletic field, many more do so because they have money on the game.

According to a 2009 CNBC report, roughly $50 billion in illegal wagers are placed on college basketball games each year. March Madness gambling attracts both seasoned handicappers who have prepared all year for the tournament as well as the casual bettor relying on things like "cool uniforms", to pick their teams.

The NCAA officially "opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community."

Tickets to the Dance

March Madness Cheerleaders

The college basketball season and its curious overuse of alliteration, starts mid-October with something called "Midnight Madness". Ostensibly, it's the very first moment that the NCAA permits formal basketball practice to begin. The fact that the "student athletes" have actually been practicing under the guise of "agility and strength training" since mid-July, kicks off the hypocrisy of the season as well.

During the regular season, teams compete (for the most part) within their conference. To assess where they stand nationwide, a list of the top twenty five teams is compiled by using something called the Ratings Percentage Index. The Rating Percentage Index or RPI takes into account the home and away games lost or won and other mysterious factors.

Each year, fans wait with heady anticipation as the sixty-five schools and their tournament seeding are revealed on Selection Sunday (tm NCAA). This sets off a national frenzy of bracket printing, office betting pools and cubicle experts postulating on things such as the strength of Ohio State's "pick and roll" against Duke's ability to "belly up".

The Cinderella Story

March Madness Cinderella

87% Chance of Pumpkin by Round One

The first two rounds of March Madness don't seem that important because they aren't given poetic names like "So-So Sixty-five" or "Thriving Thirty-two". However, because of the single elimination nature of the tournament and the possibility of a Cinderella type upset, betting on the first two rounds of the tournament has become the second most booked sports weekend on the Las Vegas strip after the Super Bowl.

Fairytale performances are exciting to dream about, but in reality, top seeds rarely lose in the opening rounds. After the hopes and dreams of 49 mediocre teams are dashed the following self-explanatory match ups take place: Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight (formerly the Great Eight), Final Four. While sixty-five teams may seem like a pretty big group, the NCAA is rumored to be expanding the tournament so that ninety-six will get a bid by 2011.

Money, Money and Amateur Athletes

For a tournament dedicated to amateurism, there's lots of money involved, as long as you aren't a player.

"On matters of amateurism, the colleges and universities in the NCAA have made it clear: student-athletes are not permitted to endorse products and retain their eligibility," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for membership services.

Fortunately for NCAA coaches, in addition to their salary and bonuses, lucrative endorsement deals involving guarantees amateur athlete wear the product, are not verboten.

Evolution of the Short-Short

1980s

March Madness 1980s Style

Nike approved uniforms

Student athlete uniforms for teams with Nike endorsement contracts: 2010 Long Shorts or Short Pants?

University of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Multiple College Vacated Title Record Holder

UK's John Calipari, the highest paid coach in college basketball, has the notorious distinction of having two vacated Final Four appearances, while at two different schools (Massachusetts 1996 and Memphis 2008).

Calpari's contract to coach the University of Kentucky Wildcats is an 8-year, approximately $32 million dollar deal. In addition to his base salary, broadcasting and endorsement deals. The following are perks and incentives he is eligible to receive above his 4 million per year:

* $50k bonus - academic achievements by team
* $50k bonus - winning SEC Tournament
* $175k bonus - making the Final Four
* $375k bonus - winning the National Championship
* 2 automobiles
* Paid expense account
* 20 lower-level tickets to all UK home games
* Membership at country club
* $3 million per year buyout if he is fired

Yes, but the athlete gets that sweet "free" academic ride. Well, sort of, because of NCAA rules forbidding full scholarships, the average debt of a scholarship athlete is around $2300 a year. And the players Calipari kicked to the curb when he got to Kentucky? They, like all NCAA athletes, only had a one year renewable scholarships, not $3 million per year golden parachute Calipari has in his current contract.

Picking Winners - The Simple Bracket Formula

NCAA Bracket Quotient

There are tons of websites with compicated systems devoted to helping you pick winners in the tournament. You don't have to spend hours pouring over useles RPI statistics, simply plug in the numbers, and select the team with the higher BQ (Bracket Quotient) score proceed to the next round.