What is March Madness – and the nonprofit that manages the mayhem?

The annual college basketball spectacle known as March Madness has arrived.  Millions of people will tune in to the three-week tournament to see who’s the best team in the U.S. And millions more will wager a few bucks to take part in an office pool in which they try to pick the winner. Even presidents have been known to take part in the madness.  But behind the hype is a lot of cash. Just as journalists are trained to follow the money, so are economists like me. So let’s take a closer look.

From final draw to Final Four

March Madness is a single-elimination tournament in which athletes from 68 Division I teams compete in seven rounds. The tournament begins with a bracket draw, held on March 11, and then dwindles down to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the championship game in San Antonio on April 2.

The nonprofit National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, formed the tournament in 1939, when just eight teams competed.

While the phrase “March Madness” was first coined in Illinois in 1939 to describe its state high school basketball tournament, it wasn’t used for the collegiate gathering until 1982.

Follow the money

Perhaps more interesting than the tournament itself is the organization that runs it.

The NCAA generates a huge amount of money, taking in almost US$1 billion a year. The vast majority comes from March Madness and the television and marketing revenue it generates.

Current NCAA President Mark Emmert earns over $1.9 million a year, more than every public college president and all but 11 private school leaders.

His salary, however, is easily eclipsed by college coaches. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski earns $8.98 million a year, and at least 49 others make more than Emmert.

By comparison, the university professors who educate these student athletes – the purpose of college after all – earn a fraction of the salaries of the coaches and Emmert. A full professor at a public doctoral institution earned an average of $126,000 in 2016.

So what else does the NCAA do?

The NCAA states that it helps more than 480,000 student athletes “succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.” As such, it touches the lives of more students than even the biggest university in the country, the University of Phoenix, which educates 195,000.

As part of its mission, the association claims 87 percent of its student athletes earn degrees within six years, up from 74 percent in 2002 and far better than the 60 percent rate among comparable full-time undergraduate students.

For basketball players competing in March Madness, however, the percentage is quite a bit lower, with just 76 percent of the male athletes graduating in six years. The rate is higher for women basketball players, at 90 percent.

One of the reasons for this is that student athletes must be fairly bright to begin with, with a high school GPA of at least 2.3. And in college, they get an incredible amount of support, guidance and supervision that ensures they keep up with their courses and take exams while competing.

The real madness

Honestly, I’m not sure why an organization devoted to setting rules and hosting championship tournaments needs so much income.

While the NCAA declares it “financially assists student athletes in need of educational materials, clothing and emergency travel expenses,” its 2014 tax form shows it provided individuals with only $21,049 total in grants and other assistance and nothing in 2015.

While the NCAA says virtually all the money it collects it sends back to schools and athletics conferences, it still keeps quite a bit in most years as profit, usually around $35 million. As a result, the NCAA has slightly more than $300 million in the bank.

For comparison, this is larger than half of all university endowments in the U.S.

The NCAA used to claim its primary purpose was to “maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program.” Today, in my view, the NCAA seems more focused on selling official gear in its championship store, offering live apps for continuous connectivity and prompting bracket mania for gamblers.

While I no longer fill in a bracket, I will be plopping down on my couch like millions of other Americans to follow the tournament – and in my case root on the student athletes playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

All the same, I believe March Madness has nothing to do with education and a great deal to do with marketing. And that’s fine, it’s just like the NFL playoffs or the MLB’s World Series. Except perversely, the organization that runs March Madness gets tax-exempt status.


This post was also published on TheConverstation.com and can be found here.

44 thoughts on “What is March Madness – and the nonprofit that manages the mayhem?

  1. Nakliyat denildiğinde, çoğu insanın aklına sadece araçların belirli zamanlarda yük ve eşyaları taşımaları gelmektedir. Ancak İstanbul nakliyat işlemleri, sadece eşyaların taşınmasından ibaret olmayıp, eşyaların önceden taşınmaya hazırlanması, uygun araçların hazırlığı, varılacak noktanın kontrolü ve eşyaları yükleyip indirecek ekibin çalışmaları gibi bir dizi faaliyeti içermektedir. Bu faaliyetler zincirinin bir noktasında yapılacak dikkatsizlik veya yanlış planlama, hem eşyalara zarar verecek hem de iş kazaları gibi tehlikeli sonuçlar doğuracaktır. Tahincioğlu Nakliyat işlemlerinde güven duygusu ve iş güvenliği, işin en önemli noktasıdır. Kadıköy evden eve nakliyat, taşımacılık sektöründe güvenliği ön planda tutan güvenilir bir firmadır.

  2. Great! These kinds of events and tournaments create effective awareness among the people. I wish I was in the US so that I can participate in the basketball tournament. As I am a crazy basketball athlete and never miss a chance to play basketball. However, I was also busy searching for the best coursework writing services UK native these days because of too many assignments. I will try my luck next time when this kind of event happens again.

  3. Wiki Ghostwriter has been a leading platform for over 10 years. We provide innovative services that meet every client’s requirements. We have a team of experienced ghostwriters for hiring at very reasonable rates to meet the requirements of every client. We analyze the needs and then write the story, taking into consideration the preferences and requirements of the target audience. Here are a few of the best characteristics of our service:

  4. Thanks for sharing this information. I am facing the same problem and I am very happy to be here! Glad you shared this topic for everyone to discuss.
    among us

  5. People that have been working in the field for years are the best ones for the task. You have to go through their offerings. Check their previous projects. Most of these creative writers and academic writers have their own websites and blogs. If the writer has a website, you can easily go through it and check whether the writer is appropriate for your case! Money matters, but do not reach any cheap organization for your paper help. Take suggestions from your seniors and friends. If you go through the work of a writer, you can easily understand whether you want to work with this writer or not. Do not hurry while choosing the writer for your paper. Take time and after checking a lot of features, then only hire someone.

  6. If your chemistry assignment is wearing you down, you can get yourself some chemistry assignment help. This help will avail you of the correct answers for your assignments in the shortest possible period. Good grades are necessary for surviving in the competitive academic environment, so you must leave complex tasks at the hands of a professional.
    Our chemistry assignment writing experts know the ins and outs of high school and college topics. They can form reliable answers which are accessible for the teacher to understand and remark. The quality you will receive will be on par with no other. We do multiple checks on our assignments to ensure you only get the best writing and nothing, which is nonsensical.

  7. Thank you so much for this informative articles. Every student requires dissertation help the online UK because it allows you to save time. The research/writing process is hard, and as a result, numerous students have taken a sabbatical from their studies due to an overwhelming academic workload. So, if you’re having trouble managing your time, our experts can assist you in meeting deadlines.

Comments are closed.