Small change It isn't right for Coastal Carolinas of NCAA world to get such a small piece of tourney's fiscal pie


MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Let me crunch these numbers one more time, to make sure they compute.

OK, that's it. By George, I think I've got it now.

If Coastal Carolina had gone to the NCAA basketball tournament last season, the school would have received $264,000 for the first game (sort of; more on that later) and another quarter million or so for each additional game up to the Final Four. Making the Final Four -- the top payoff, nothing extra for winning the national championship -- would have been worth $1.4 million.

This year, for their first trip to college basketball's Big Dance, the Chanticleers will receive . . .


Yep, nothing. Zip. Nada. Not one red cent for actually playing in the tournament. What Coastal will get -- as will every school in every conference with a team in the tournament -- is $25,000.

And even that is money with strings attached, which must be spent on "academic enhancement" and then only according to strict NCAA guidelines still to be determined.

The Chanticleers could upset their way into the Final Four and still wind up with nothing except that measly $25,000. Plus expenses, of course.

Wha' hoppen?

The NCAA's Big Boys took over and sliced up that massive TV pie, $1 billion over a period of six years, to their benefit. The rich will get richer and the new kids on the block will be playing catchup forever.

What the NCAA pays off on now is "units." A conference gets one unit for each game played by each school in the NCAA tournament during the past six years.

Each unit is worth approximately $42,000. So this year, the Big East starts out with seven units, for the seven teams invited. The Atlantic Coast Conference starts out with six. Each additional game beyond the first round played by each conference school is another unit.

The Big South Conference gets one unit for Coastal Carolina winning the play-in game and going head-to-belly button with nationally third-ranked Indiana. Fine. Except that unit isn't worth anything until next year. The NCAA payoff is based on participation over the past six years. The Big South's total units for those years is zero.

"Actually, it's not that bad," Big South commissioner Buddy Sasser said over lunch yesterday. "There are a lot of positives to this plan for us."

He ticked them off.

* This year is a bonus year for the Big South, which was given a waiver to play-in to the NCAA tournament. Originally, the Big South was not scheduled to be eligible for the NCAA tournament until next season. So any money is a plus.

* Each Big South school, not just Coastal, will receive that $25,000 for academic enhancement. That's a total of $200,000.

* In addition, each Big South school will receive NCAA revenue for broad-base programs. This amount, still to be determined, will go to individual schools based on the number of sports and the number of grants-in-aid at each school. The more sports and more grants, the more money.

* The Big South Conference will receive "conference money" from the NCAA to be spent in four areas: Compliance, drug education, enhancement of basketball officiating and minority hiring.

"We would have preferred a different formula for splitting up the NCAA money," Sasser said. "What we [the small and/or new conferences] wanted was a minimum payment to every school that participated in the tournament, with the units on top of that.

"But once the decision was made [by the NCAA's executive committee], once the process is over, you go with what you've got. You try to build up the positives.

"There are some very big positives for Coastal Carolina and the Big South. Being in the NCAA gives us national exposure, which will pay off in recruitment of both students and athletes. And for the Coastal players, it's a dream come true."

Actually, had Coastal played in the NCAA last season and bowed out in the first round, the school would have received approximately $68,000 and not that fabled $264,000.

The reason is that all monies earned by any Big South school in any postseason or TV game goes to the conference, where the school presidents determine how it will be split among the schools.

The Big South formula is to take expenses and 15 percent for the participating school off the top, then split the remainder among the schools. The NCAA pays expenses for its tournaments. So Coastal last year would have received approximately $40,000 (the 15 percent for participating) plus another $28,000 for its share of the remainder. That's a far piece from the $264,000. But a sight better than nothing.

The NCAA will give Coastal its third national TV appearance in three weeks. The Chants aren't getting rich off that, either.

ESPN paid $10,000 to televise the Big South Conference game in Anderson, then came up with another $20,000 -- $10,000 to each conference involved -- for the play-in game. But in both these cases there were expenses involved, heavy expenses for the play-in game where Coastal had to fly to Jackson, Miss. The profits, if any, will be divided according to the Big South formula.

Final figures aren't available yet. But as Sasser says, "At least we know we won't lose money."

While Sasser proclaims -- and rightly so -- the positives in the NCAA splits, I'm perturbed by what it does to the small schools. Let's crunch some more numbers.

As a new kid on the block, the Big South has no NCAA units over the past six years. The Atlantic Coast Conference has 92. That's right. Ninety-two times $42,000, for a total of approximately $3.9 million.

Throw in the $25,000 per school for academic enhancement, and the still-to-be-determined broad base fund, and the ACC will just about equal its $4.5 million from last year's NCAA tournament.

The Big East had 88 units over the past six, the Big Ten 81. They're doing OK, too. And while the big boys will send five, six or seven teams to the NCAA each year, the Big South will have to struggle to get one team in. No way to catch up there.

"What I've been told," Sasser said, "is that the committee wanted to reward teams that had participated in and contributed to the development of the NCAA tournament over the years. That's fair.

"Certainly, we'd like to have had more. But we're appreciative of what we have. We're going to the Big Dance for the first time. We'll have fun. We won't be like the guy who went to a dance and felt badly, because his suit wasn't as nice as somebody else's."

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