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CSU basketball's NCAA Tournament snub cost Rams, Mountain West big bucks

BSN Denver Avatar
March 30, 2015

The Colorado State Rams men’s basketball team enjoyed their greatest season ever, setting a school-record at 27-6, but were ultimately snubbed on selection Sunday. It was sad for seniors, especially, and for the entire squad.

Their shocking exclusion from the NCAA Tournament left CSU shook up and the Rams dropped their first round National Invitation Tournament game.

But to add insult to injury, now it’s clear Colorado State’s snubbing didn’t just leave the Rams reeling, it hit them hard in the wallet, too.


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According to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal, CSU’s snub meant the school’s athletic department lost out on a $100,000 bonus and lost the Mountain West at least $1.5 million over the next six years. That’s money Colorado State — who spends around $34 million per year on athletics — could have certainly used.

Here’s how it works: In 1990, the NCAA started the “basketball fund” in order to distribute revenue to all the deserving conferences who take place in the NCAA Tournament. Currently, the NCAA and CBS Sports’ contract is in the fifth year of a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract, meaning there’s plenty of profit to go around.

The way they distribute the money is based upon how many games a particular team, and how many total games a conference, plays in the tourney. The shares are called “units” and the Mountain West missed out on a unit this year, but also for the next five years following, too.

Units pay out for six consecutive seasons, and this year’s unit price is set at $255,379. Multiply that by six and the MW will lose at least $1.53 million, as those unit prices vary from year to year.

In the current six-year cycle (2009-2014), the MW is bringing in revenue from 31 units. That number will increase next year to 33 because only two MW teams made the Big Dance in 2009, while four participated this year.

When the $7.9 million the league is owed is paid out soon, each school will take home at least $696,977, with Boise State earning a $50,000 bonus for participating in a First Four game, while San Diego State and Wyoming each earned a $100,000 bonus for playing in the rounds of 64 or 32. Those bonuses are paid from the Mountain West itself, as they incentivize not only making the tournament, but winning games too. Because advancing in the tournament means more units and more money for the entire conference.

Teams also can earn a $150,000 bonus for making the Sweet 16 and another $250,000 for getting to the Final Four.

For now, the MW teams – who went 1-3 in this year’s tournament – have to learn how to win games once in March Madness. Because, clearly, it’s a win-win for individual teams and the conference alike.

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