Coming down with March Madness before the Big Dance may sound like an excuse to skip prom, but it actually describes our nationwide obsession with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This 68-team basketball bonanza has been known to crown a Cinderella or two, produce at least one shining moment a year, and turn millions of Americans into illegal gamblers. It’s that good.
It’s also a big business both on and off the court, making millionaires out of coaches, conference commissioners and NCAA executives but very few players. Tournament time takes a toll on fans’ wallets, too, and not just in terms of the millions we lose in bracket pools each year. The average single-game ticket costs about $258, for one thing. Around 19 percent more beer is sold to keep up with cheering fans. And there’s the potential for some workplace conflict, since distracted employees cost businesses about $13.3 billion per year.
In other words, there’s a lot more to this tournament than basketball. And since money plays at least as much of a role as love of the game, WalletHub analyzed March Madness from tip to title with a special emphasis on finance. You can check out all the interesting NCAA tournament stats and facts that we found in the infographic below. We also hosted a Q&A with a panel of sports business experts on topics ranging from college basketball’s economics to which team will cut down the nets in Atlanta. Enjoy the show!
**Note: These numbers will be affected due to NCAA's decision to only allow essential staff and limited family attendance to attend the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
Top 10 March Madness Stats & Facts:
- $9.3 Million: Salary for college basketball’s highest paid coach, Kentucky’s John Calipari (vs. $1.6M combined for University of Kentucky’s president and the state’s governor).
- $13.3 Billion: Corporate losses due to unproductive workers during March Madness.
- $8.5 Billion: Amount wagered on the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament ($3.9 billion illegally).
- 46.5X: Difference between the average NBA rookie’s salary ($3.2M) and a D1 men’s athlete basketball scholarship for a year ($70K).
- $106 Million: The 2020 Final Four’s projected economic impact on host city Atlanta, with over 113,000 fans expected to visit Atlanta for the event.
- $334.2 Million: Estimated value of the University of Kentucky basketball program, highest among all schools.
- $167.6 Million: NCAA’s basketball fund’s 2020 distribution to D1 schools.
- $0: Amount of money the NCAA pays the players participating in the tournament.
- 19.6 Million: People watched the 2019 title game between Virginia and Texas Tech (up 23% from 2018).
- 23%: Increase in chicken wings orders during the tournament, with 2.3 billion wing portions consumed by fans during the tournament (14 wing portions per viewer).
March Madness is one of the most entertaining guessing games on the calendar, but we wanted to add some more-educated insights to the prognostication mix. So we posed the following questions to a panel of sports business experts. You can check out their bios and responses below.
- Who are your Final Four picks?
- How do you characterize the NCAA tournament’s economic impact on its host cities?
- What’s the difference between early-round games and the Final Four?
- Where do you stand on the issue of paying college athletes?
- What are the biggest issues facing the NCAA today?
- Should daily fantasy sports be considered gambling?