the BigAmateurism monologues

A series of events over the last 18 months—some unforeseeable—have created a perfect storm that will change college sports forever. The NCAA's bait an…
Mar 31st, 2022 | 1:10:02

The Unique Value of Big-Time Division I Men’s Basketball Players to the NCAA and All of College Sports

According to the college sports commentariat, this year’s Final Four may be the most compelling (and valuable) in the tournament’s history. After a feel-good run by St. Peter’s, the tournament has reverted—as always—to its basketball blue blood standard-bearers: Duke, Kansas, UNC, and Villanova. The college sports ecosystem is in a feeding frenzy to capitalize on these Final Four athletes’ unique talents and achievements. Lost in the noise is a stark reality: the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is the oxygen that supports the corrupt NCAA bureaucracy. In athletes’ rights discussions, the interests of revenue-producing football and men’s basketball players are conflated to suggest that they stand on equal footing in underwriting the excesses of Big Amateurism. While these two stakeholder groups have much in common, high-level Division I men’s basketball plays a unique and critical role in the exploitative business model. Because of the 1984 Board of Regents decision, the NCAA doesn’t receive any revenue from any big-time football products, including the post-season CFP and bowl game revenue streams. After losing its football empire in 1984, the NCAA was left with its consolation prize: the Division I men’s basketball tournament. Since then, the NCAA has marketed, branded, and exploited the commercial value of this single tournament as if its life depends upon it—because it does. This episode examines the unique value of high-level men’s basketball teams and players to the NCAA and Association-wide beneficiaries of March Madness revenue. Using the NCAA‘s 2018 Form 990 tax return, I break down how the NCAA claims to spend the 1.1 billion dollars per year it receives through its long-term contract with CBS/Turner. I also discuss the bonus structures in Final Four coaches’ and athletics directors’ contracts that relate to the performance of their teams in this NCAA tournament. Would it be the end of the world if the players responsible for these bonuses got one of their own?