Final Four runs by UNC and Syracuse worth at least $12.8 million to ACC


The ACC’s dominant run in this NCAA Tournament will earn the conference about an extra $3.6 million in next year’s payout. Over the next six years, the Final Four runs by North Carolina and Syracuse will be worth at least $12.8 million to the ACC. Meanwhile, the SEC and Pac-12 now annually trail the Big Ten by more than $10 million in NCAA basketball distribution money.

When NCAA Tournament checks are distributed this year, the Big Ten will lead the way with approximately $27.1 million. The ACC will get $20.3 million, but the league’s record 25 NCAA Tournament units this year will pay off in a big way for the 2016-17 distribution and future years.

Those 25 units alone, aided by North Carolina and Syracuse reaching the Final Four and two others in the Elite Eight, are worth at least $39.9 million over the next six years. Inevitably, they will be worth more than that. The value of an NCAA Tournament unit increases by several thousand dollars each year.

A conference’s annual basketball share from the NCAA is based on the number of teams placed in the tournament and how they fare over a rolling six-year period. One unit is awarded for each tournament game in which a team participates, except the championship game. Each unit for this year’s distribution (not counting 2016 results) is worth about $260,800. The unit value is projected to increase to $265,791 for the 2017 payout.

NCAA Basketball Fund Distribution
Conference 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12
Big Ten $27.9M $27.1M $24.5M $22.3M $20.4M $18.2M
ACC $23.9M $20.3M $18.4M $17.5M $18.2M $17.7M
American $22.1M $24.5M $29.4M $30.8M $28.7M $27.4M
Big 12 $19.7M $19.3M $20.2M $20.5M $20.6M $18.6M
SEC $16.5M $17.2M $15.1M $13.8M $15.2M $16.2M
Pac-12 $15.7M $13.8M $13.5M $13.3M $14.5M $16.2M

Because of middling NCAA Tournament success in recent years, the ACC had been stuck in the $17-$18 million range for each payout. But next year the ACC gets to replace 13 units with 25 units, and that’s coupled with 21 units the ACC earned in 2015.

To put it another way: The ACC’s 46 units in 2015 and 2016 are more than the SEC generated over the past four years (38 units). This year, the Pac-12 will get paid for only 53 units over the most recent six-year period.

So the ACC is about to get a big payoff for a long time. This is the reward for surviving expansion and swallowing up quality basketball schools from the old Big East.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 and SEC continue to fall way behind. This year, the Pac-12’s NCAA Tournament check will be $13.3 million less than the Big Ten. That’s a big gap for a league that calls itself the “Conference of Champions” and significantly trails the Big Ten and SEC in TV network money.

The Pac-12 had single-digit units for four straight years from 2010-13. The only slightly good news for the Pac-12 is it soon gets to replace five units from 2010 with 11 from 2016.

The SEC will receive $9.9 million less than the Big Ten this year and $11.4 million less in 2017. Next year, that equates to each SEC school getting about $760,000 less than each Big Ten school.

Now, the SEC is hardly hurting for dollars, what with football and the SEC Network printing money for the league’s schools. But the Big Ten is getting that football and TV money, too. (One big difference is Big Ten schools need to stretch out that money a little farther since they tend to sponsor more sports than the SEC.)

The bottom line: No one likes leaving money on the table in college sports. The SEC recently hired former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese to advise the league in basketball.

That’s because the SEC’s basketball woes are adding up. Think of it this way: From 2012-17, the SEC will have earned approximately $46.4 million less than the Big Ten in NCAA Tournament money. The Pac-12 will have received $53.4 million less than the Big Ten.

It wasn’t always this way for the SEC, which used to place far more teams in the NCAA Tournament and get deeper runs from teams other than Kentucky. In 2010, the SEC and Big Ten were only separated by $200,000 in NCAA Tournament checks. That’s largely because the SEC had 17 and 14 units in 2006 and 2007, respectively, thanks to success by schools like Florida and LSU. Neither team made the tournament this year. Now the SEC is looking at three more years on the books with seven units and six years with six units.

The Big Ten once went through a similar extended down cycle in basketball. In 2010, the Big Ten was near the bottom among the major conferences in basketball money and got $3 million less than the ACC. The Big Ten has averaged 17 units over the past seven years.

The Big 12 got much-needed deep NCAA Tournament runs this year by Kansas and Oklahoma. Next year, the Big 12 loses 16 units from 2010, back when the conference had more teams. Those 16 units, the most by the Big 12 over the past six years, get to be replaced with 16 from 2016.

But no one is a bigger winner than the ACC, which has become the old Big East. It’s going to pay off for a long time.

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The ACC is cashing in big because of North Carolina and Syracuse. (USATSI)
The ACC is cashing in big because of North Carolina and Syracuse. (USATSI)

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