The Atlantic Coast Conference’s strong performance in this year’s March Madness will put roughly $36.4 million in the conference’s coffers over the next six years.
The ACC qualified five teams in the tournament and two of them—Duke and UNC—are among the four remaining. The NCAA distributes money to conferences annually based on how many March Madness games its members play before the final. Thanks to the two North Carolina rivals, ACC teams will play 18 of those games, which translates to roughly $36.4 million paid out to the ACC in installments through 2028.
The Big Ten will pull in the same, showing there are two ways to earn major money from the NCAA tournament. You can have teams advance deep into the field, as in the ACC’s case, or you can have a large number of your teams qualify for the tournament at the start, like the Big Ten did. The Big Ten had nine teams in the tournament, though none made it past the Sweet Sixteen.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is another big winner. It’s been a decade since the MAAC played more than one game in the tournament, and Saint Peter’s played four this year.
The NCAA has a complex way of rewarding teams for their tournament performance. In overly simplistic terms, a team earns one “unit” for each game it plays during March Madness, minus the championship, and those units deliver payments to the team’s conference for the next six years. The exact value of a win in 2022 won’t be set until 2028, but by looking at the NCAA’s revenue guidance, Sportico calculates each win this year to be worth about $2.02 million.
Because there’s no payout for the championship game, the units are now fully set for this year’s tournament. The Big 12 will have the third highest haul (17 units, about $34.3 million), followed by the Big East (13 units, $26.3 million) and the SEC (11 units, $22.2 million). The Pac-12, last year’s surprise unit winner, finished sixth (seven units, $14.1 million).
The NCAA encourages conferences to split the money evenly among its members, and while most do, some do more to reward the specific schools that earn those payouts. Gonzaga, for example, which has earned 18 units for the WAC in the last six years (wins eventually worth eight figures), had enough leverage recently to change the way the conference divvies up its unit money, giving more to the schools that earn them.
Will Saint Peter’s see more than 1/11th of the roughly $8.1 million the school earned for the MAAC? It’s unclear. Peacocks AD Rachelle Paul told ESPN that she’d like to see a larger cut, and a conference representative didn’t respond to an inquiry about the league’s plan. It’s worth noting that all of the conference’s other units from the past six years (five in total), were earned by Iona.
Payments for this year’s tournament won’t start until 2023, when Sportico calculates that each unit will be worth about $340,000. They won’t end until 2028, when Sportico estimates that each unit will be worth about $317,000 (that number is lower because the canceled 2020 event altered the calculations for the ensuing six years).
These unit payouts represent a large chunk of how the NCAA distributes money to its schools. The Indianapolis-based governing body says it will distribute $625.5 million to members in 2022, and the unit payouts represent $223.7 million of that, or 36% of the total.
Of note: These payouts exist only on the men’s side. The NCAA has no payout or compensation system for schools based on their success in the women’s tournament.