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:
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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