Butler's stirring spring through March Madness isn't just good for the Horizon League's profile, it's also good for its coffers. And with the Bulldogs' and Cleveland State's recent success in the NCAA tournament, including Butler's appearance in the national championship game last night, the Horizon League will be seeing a large influx of cash.
Here's the simple breakdown: The NCAA takes revenue from TV and attendance and makes a pie of cool cash. 64 games, 128 equal units or slices of that pie. Appear in a game and your conference gets a cut (the pie was $167 million last year). But here's the wrinkle, which I was not aware of: the NCAA cuts the checks based on the last six years of performance at the tournament. CSU's communications director Brian McCann explains two reasons for this. "First, they spread it out so the amount won't jump up and down so dramatically. And second, they wanted to get around the idea that there's a $500,000 free throw. If a kid makes it, they win, and there's $500,000 on the line. So that's why they spread it out."
So, this year, the Horizon League had 15 total units accumulated over the previous six years. Each unit was $222,206, so the Horizon League got a check for $3,333,092 from the NCAA. (In comparison, the Big East got about $23 million from 104 units, the ACC got about $18 million, and the Big Ten received about $15 million.)
The six year cycle is about to be very kind to the Horizon League as the 1 unit from 2004 drops off and the 6 units from this year factor in, meaning an extra $1.1 million or so, which will bring the total Horizon League cut to about $4.4 million.
Does that mean more money for Cleveland State? Yes and no.
"Other leagues do it differently," says McCann, "But in the Horizon League, we don't pay any kind of operating fees or membership fees. So that money all goes back into the league and the league uses it as its operating fund. They will also give some money to the teams, but it's not weighted, so Butler won't get more just because they were the team that won those games. The league has a contingency fund, so last year, when we went to Miami, we ended up eating a bunch of tickets, because we were in Miami and we had to buy a certain number of tickets. There are expenses that pop up that are unavoidable, so we received some money from the league to offset that loss. They also give out money to the teams."
So what about the extra $1.1 million the Horizon's going to rake in? It could go to general funds, like increasing TV exposure or advertising, or they could start a new venture. But a portion of it should go back to the teams, and McCann says the Vikings could get up to $100,000 extra thanks to the increase.
Doesn't sound like much, no, but remember what kind of operating budgets Cleveland State's basketball program works on. Two years ago it was just $225,744 (218th in DI), about the same amount of a one unit payment to a conference for an NCAA appearance.
The practical effects of a limited budget pop up during the season. For example, when CSU went down to Cancun for a preseason tournament, they played Kentucky on Tuesday then Virginia on Wednesday. After the game, Virginia's players showered and hopped on chartered flights home, free to spend Thursday, Thanksgiving, at home. CSU, meanwhile, had to spend Wednesday night in Cancun then hop through airports on commercial flights on Thanksgiving, finally arriving back in Cleveland after most of us had finished our second helpings of turkey.
So, yeah, $100,000 ain't much, but every little bit helps.
Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.
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