It’s called March Madness for a reason, but this year’s NCAA tournament has brought a whole new level to the madness, verging on all out anarchy. Not only is the ludicrousness in the last few years good news for the underdogs in the brackets, it’s even better news for the NCAA.
The governing body of college athletics wasn’t originally founded on the principles of turning every human against one another all in the pursuit of Warren Buffett’s $1 billion, but that’s what it has become. It’s not that the NCAA wants to pit families against one another and create offices where the only thing that gets done is dreaming up new ways to watch the tournament and keep your boss in the dark about your lack of activity. But hey, the NCAA has struck gold that just keeps skyrocketing in value, so why not take advantage of it?
The NCAA doesn’t have jurisdiction over who is giving away a billion dollars for a perfect bracket and it’s not directly responsible for all the rampant gambling that takes place. But the organization is not exactly stopping people from ramping up the hype for March Madness, and there’s no reason to stop anyone.
These complete strangers are driving the money making machine while those in the NCAA office in Indianapolis can just sit and bathe in the money or whatever it is they do with all the cold, hard cash they’re rolling in these days. In fact, in the documentary, “Schooled: The Real Price of College Athletics,” it was estimated that the NCAA makes around $800 million a year from the NCAA tournament alone. I’d say that’s probably plenty of money to bathe in. Heck, they probably have swimming pools full.
But the NCAA isn’t the only one profiting either. CBS and Turner Broadcasting System, which owns TNT, TBS and TruTV, make a lot of money because of their rights to broadcast the tournament. “How nice,” you say to yourself when you can watch all the games of the tournament online without even needing cable. It’s almost like you get to watch for free or something.
But the next time you watch a game online, look just a little closer at the bottom of NCAA.com. It’s a nonprofit website probably run by the NCAA, right? Wrong. I didn’t realize this myself until last year when I looked closer and noticed the website is part of Bleacher Report, a subsidiary of the Turner conglomerate. And the only reason they show the tournament for “free” online is because commercials come as part of the viewing experience — no matter where you go you can’t escape the power of commercialism.
Speaking of which, the companies that have their advertisements on during the tournament can’t be forgotten about either. This group, although it might not make money, contributes some $1.15 billion in TV ad dollars during the tournament, which is more than any of the big three professional postseasons, the NBA, MLB and yes, even more than the NFL and advertising giant the Super Bowl. The best of the best make their case to the NCAA and the TV partners in hopes they might get a piece of the pie. Maybe, just maybe, that company can be one of the corporate partners of the NCAA one day.
Gosh, nothing sounds better with basketball than AT&T, am I right? Although that partnership is not nearly as synonymous as the NCAA and Coca Cola because, let’s be honest, nothing goes with athletics more than a beverage that depletes the calcium in your bones.
Sarcasm aside, I’ve strayed much too far from my point, which I’ve completely forgotten since I got tangled up in the mangled mess of money. Actually, come to think of it, since I started talking about the NCAA, TV and advertising, I feel like I have forgotten about something else too. Oh, right, that’s what it was: I forgot to discuss the real purpose of the tournament — playing basketball.
Who cares, though? Someone will end up winning and someone will end up losing and based off of the actual bracket, I must have haphazardly assembled mine in the midst of a nightmare. Never mind the rest of my bracket; the only reason I’m even writing this column is for the pay check. March Madness is even kind to my wallet.
Yes, it seems like all is well with the tournament. Ratings through the first three rounds have hit their highest mark since 1993, and the first week of the tournament averaged almost 9.3 million viewers. The Badgers are headed to the Sweet Sixteen, and money is being made in such large amounts that the NCAA might have to contact the U.S. Treasury Department so it can bypass cash and just get the gold bars already.
Well, I suppose everything is well with the tournament save for maybe one small thing which is hardly even worth taking the time to mention. Everyone surrounding this tournament seems to profit in some way, monetary or otherwise, except for the athletes. But how could I forget that they’re getting a college education, and we all know you can’t put a price on that. In fact, these players are students first. Basketball comes second to the classroom, which is why they miss almost the entire week of class to go to these games.
So the student-athletes make the entire tournament possible, yet they don’t receive any compensation for their efforts and their schooling is affected at the same time? Seems like a typical, twisted NCAA mastermind plan.
The ratings might be reaching new levels and all may be well for the NCAA at least, but does anyone care about these supposed “student-athletes?” When do they get what they deserve?
Dan is a sophomore intending to major in journalism. Do you think the NCAA is taking advantage of the players or is the governing body of college athletics justified in all the money it’s making? Let Dan know by sending him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by joining the twitter conversation and tweeting him @DanCoco7.