My brain still hurts when I contemplate the Explorers in the Sweet 16 and now in my top 3. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA Tournament Units and the Atlantic 10 Conference

Television revenue has been driving college sports for the last decade or so, as we’ve seen conference expansions driven entirely by television dollars.  If rumored reports are true, the Atlantic 10′s current television deal is for  slightly over $4.5 million per year, while other conferences like the new Big East are getting huge deals where the Washington Post was reporting that each school was getting $4 million per year.

However, the television revenue from the conference television deals only account for some of their media revenue with the NCAA Tournament accounting for a huge chunk as well.  For every tournament game played by a team, their conference receives a portion of the NCAA’s revenue totally approximately $1.5 million paid over the next six years, or $250,000 a season.  Each conference can then distribute that money how they desire.  Unlike most conferences, the Atlantic 10 does not equally distribute the funds but rather has a “to the victor goes the spoils” approach.  In the A-10, the school that played the NCAA Tournament game(s) gets to keep 75% of the funds, with the remaining 25% distributed throughout the conference.  Thus, even if Dayton were to lose to Stanford next, the Atlantic 10 would have earned $1.5 million per game * 9 games (also referred to a units) = $13.5 million paid over six years, or $2.25 million per year.  That $2.25 million for the NCAA Tournament would account for roughly one-third of all television money to the conference.  Those units stay in the conference even if teams leave the conference.  As such, the units gained from Xavier, Temple, and Butler are still going to the Atlantic 10, not their new conferences.

Duquesne would see roughly 25% of the $1.5 million paid over six years per game divided 13 ways.  That would come out to $4,807 per year for the next six years per NCAA Tournament game played by an A-10 school.  At nine NCAA games (if Dayton loses), that’s $43,269 each year for six years, or $259,615…a sizable amount!

In the long run, an increased conference RPI will help foster future NCAA Tournament earnings by increasing bids. That’s why Atlantic 10 schools are scheduling for the RPI out of conference by decreasing strength of schedule like the BCS conferences have for years.  Duquesne fans should expect a weaker out-of-conference competition, but when the strategy helps them and everyone else in the league net 260K, it seems well worth it.

Tags: Atlantic 10 Credits NCAA Tournament Units