Tracking Basketball Fund Money in the NCAA Tournament

David Singleton #34 and the UCLA Bruins react in the final moments of their 73-62 win over the Brigham Young Cougars in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

UCLA’s financial issues weren’t solved with a win over Michigan State in the First Four, the Bruins’ first NCAA Tournament win in three years, but it was a step in the right direction for a school and conference battling deficits.

In February, UCLA athletics reported an operating deficit of $21.7 million for its 2020 fiscal year, raising their two-year deficit total to a staggering $40.6 million. In the 15 years of USA Today’s reporting on the finances of all Division-I public schools, the Bruins had never reported a deficit. Some of the deficit is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that decimated athletics departments across the country; UCLA’s revenues dropped from $108.4 million in 2019 to $97.7 million in 2020. However, for one, their expenses fell by a similar amount, dropping from $127.3 million to $119.4 million.

“For example, [UCLA] reported a $2 million decrease in revenue from the NCAA, which had to drastically cut distributions due to the Division I men’s basketball tournament’s cancellation,” USA Today wrote in February. 

UCLA took one step, albeit a minuscule one, toward more March Madness revenue with the First Four win. In earning a tourney bid, the Bruins earned one unit for the Pac-12 from the NCAA’s Basketball Fund, a billion-dollar pool that distributes revenue to member conferences by way of units. With each game played, a team earns one unit for their conference. For the 2021 tournament, each unit is worth $337,141. That amount is paid to the conference each year for six years starting one year after the tournament (for a total of $2,022,846). And the conference may use or distribute the funds to member institutions however they wish.

In clinching their first Final Four berth since 2008 with a win over Michigan on Tuesday, the Bruins also tied the record for most Basketball Fund units in one year (VCU, 2011) and ensured the Pac-12 would earn the most Basketball Fund money this year.

Here’s the final tally of Basketball Fund units earned in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and the total six-year value of those units:

ConferenceUnitsTotal
Pac-1219$38,434,074
Big Ten17$34,388,382
Big 1216$32,365,536
SEC13$26,296,998
ACC11$22,251,306
Big East8$16,182,768
American6$12,137,076
WCC6$12,137,076
Missouri Valley5$10,114,230
Summit3$6,068,538
Atlantic 102$4,045,692
C-USA2$4,045,692
MAC2$4,045,692
MEAC2$4,045,692
Mountain West2$4,045,692
Southland2$4,045,692
SWAC2$4,045,692
America East1$2,022,846
Atlantic Sun1$2,022,846
Big Sky1$2,022,846
Big South1$2,022,846
Big West1$2,022,846
CAA1$2,022,846
Horizon1$2,022,846
MAAC1$2,022,846
Northeast1$2,022,846
Ohio Valley1$2,022,846
Patriot1$2,022,846
SoCon1$2,022,846
Sun Belt1$2,022,846
WAC1$2,022,846

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM

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