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BYU's past NCAA success still makes millions for Mountain West Conference

Jimmer Fredette celebrates the win in the tunnel off court as BYU defeated Gonzaga 89-67 Saturday, March 19, 2011 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver Colorado. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
Jimmer Fredette celebrates the win in the tunnel off court as BYU defeated Gonzaga 89-67 Saturday, March 19, 2011 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver Colorado. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Every fan of college basketball wants to see his-or-her team in the postseason.

Right now the country is abuzz over the NCAA basketball tournament while BYU fans also have a keen interest in the National Invitational Tournament.

Buzz aside, appearances in the NCAA tourney and even the NIT can also be a financial windfall for conferences and schools. And that’s important, as those postseason appearances cost money as teams and school officials have to fly to game destinations, book large blocks of hotel rooms and feed that caravan along the way.

So how, exactly, do schools get paid for playing postseason basketball games?

And how does BYU’s appearance in the NIT benefit it compared to its previous six NCAA bids?

BYU still earning big bucks for the Mountain West

Fans in Provo complained for years that BYU was carrying schools like Wyoming, Colorado State and New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference by providing a large portion of the conference’s TV money and postseason revenues.

But, what fans may not know is, that continues today. Only now, BYU doesn’t see a dime of the money it still earns for the MWC.

How is that possible, you ask?

The NCAA pays a revenue-share for participation in the Big Dance in the form of “units.” Each game a team plays generates a unit of credit for six years. So a team that plays in a one-and-done tourney earns one credit for six years. Each unit has a set monetary value. This year a unit is worth $242,204.

So, a single NCAA Tourney game played in 2013 pays $242,204 for six years, or more than $1.5 million.

But that money doesn’t go to the teams that played the game. Instead, it goes to the conference. The conference then divides the money among its teams, usually equally. And those units stay with the conference, even when a team leaves, as BYU did with the MWC in 2011.

The Cougars played in the NCAA tournament in the last five years they were in the Mountain West, a single game each in the 2007-2009 tourneys, two games in 2010 and three in 2011.

And you can see the money starting to add up.

When BYU left the conference in 2011, the units the Cougars had earned — but had yet to be completely cashed out over their six-year lifespan — stayed with the MWC:

— 1 unit from 2007 worth about $191,000

— 2 units from 2008 worth about $206,000 each or $412,000 total.

— 3 units from 2009 worth about $220,000 each or $660,000 total

— 8 units from 2010 worth about $240,000 each or $1.92 million

— 15 units from 2011 worth about $242,000 each or $3.32 million

All told, BYU has, or will eventually, earn the Mountain West Conference more than $6.81 million dollars in NCAA Tournament revenue that it will never be share in.

This is not, per se, an issue unique to the Mountain West Conference. With the recent changes in conference affiliation in the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12, the Big East and others, it's very likely that this same arrangement is present with a number of schools across the Division-1 landscape.

The BYU Athletics Department declined to respond or comment to Deseret News contributors.

NIT money

BYU was able to recoup quickly some of its lost tournament revenue by earning an NCAA tournament unit for the West Coast Conference last March, along with St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.

But what about this year and the NIT? Does BYU make money hosting home games and get paid for playing in New York?

The answer is yes. But the amount of money isn't easy to determine.

The NIT, which is run by the NCAA, earns money through TV and broadcast deals, sponsorships and ticket sales, and then pays for operating expenses with that money.

Then the tournament gives schools units of the profit for each game played, just like its big brother the NCAA tournament. But those shares are entirely paid by August of the same year and do not carrying a six-year value like the Big Dance. And the public doesn’t know that unit-value yet.

Note though, that the money made from ticket sales to the home games BYU hosted is paid directly to the NIT.

Ticket prices for the host school are basically set, and though BYU had to process, print and distribute the tickets, the revenue went to the tournament.

However, there is a clause in the NIT Tournament Manual which allows the NIT to pay “an honorarium, determined in the NIT, L.L.C.’s discretion in an amount up to fifteen percent (15%) of net game receipts derived from the tournament contest,” after expenses.

This means the NIT may pay BYU up to 15 percent of the net proceeds, but it isn’t required to.

The good news for BYU is it does get all money made selling concessions at the game, which, depending on the game can be nice pocket change for the school.

BYU also gets travel expenses reimbursed and a $120 daily per diem for meals and other items.

Summing the dollars up

Despite the fact BYU advanced to the “other” Final Four and could play for the NIT title, those earned revenue units probably pale in comparison to the serious dollars BYU earned for the Mountain West before its subsequent split.

But, it certainly helps. And participation in the NIT isn’t a losing proposition like some football bowl games can be.

The long and short of it is, the Cougars are in a good place for future basketball success, and had a nice run in the recent past with Jimmer Fredette at the point. But it’s the Cowboys, Falcons and Rams that are currently reaping the financial benefits from the Cougars' past success.

Ryan Teeples is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting Inc (