Between the Lines: The Business of March Madness

March Madness is in full swing: heated company bracket pools, back-to-back-to-back basketball games on television daily, and inevitable bracket busters. In this week’s Between the Lines, we’re taking a quick look at how Champ Week and the NCAA Tournament have turned the most anticipated college basketball games of the year into a money-making machine.

The Endangered List: Mid-Major Teams

For many mid-major teams, the road to the NCAA Tournament is getting more and more difficult. For many, their fate lies in the hands of an automatic berth by winning their conference tournament. Last March, Wichita State was the only mid-major team to earn one of the 36 at-large berths. This year, St. Mary’s, Dayton and VCU earned at-large bids. Some argue that conference realignments are the driving force behind diminished opportunities for mid-major teams. “The eye of the needle for teams outside of the power conferences is getting narrower and narrower,” Horizon League commissioner Jonathan LeCrone said. When a strong team like Butler leaves Horizon, it may open up a spot for a new conference champion, but it also takes away two much-needed resume-building games for the rest of the teams in the conference. Read More ≥≥

Turf Wars

This year, the ACC tournament took place in Barclay Arena in Brooklyn, New York. Just across the bridge, the Big East was playing at Madison Square Garden for the 35th consecutive year—college basketball’s longest running postseason basketball conference tournament held at the same venue. The move from Greensboro to Brooklyn was met with mixed reactions. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim (rather infamously) argued that the move to New York was a smart business move. Others missed the tradition of the Greensboro Coliseum. With the Big Ten Tournament uprooting itself from the Midwest to Washington D.C. in 2017 and to New York in 2018, there certainly seems to be a trend towards business-minded, media market-driven decisions. Read More ≥≥

A Cinderella $tory

Let’s talk bracket busters. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the NCAA tournament thrives on them. But universities do too. In 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a last-second Hail Mary pass to win the game against the University of Miami. Boston College saw a surge in applicants the following year, a phenomenon often referred to now as the “Flutie Effect.” Part of the thrill of March Madness stems from the stunning upsets that bubble teams and Mid-major conference winners pose on top seeds. But these schools do more than just cause chaos in your bracket. Smaller schools in the tournament often see a spike in application numbers, increased endowments, and an uptick in donations. Read More ≥≥

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