No sport loves its Cinderella stories quite like college basketball. Teams like Duke, Kentucky and UNC might be powerhouses year in and year out, but when the Final Four arrives, they can just as easily be left behind for the Loyola Chicago’s and UMBC’s of the world.
What’s truly amazing is the budget comparison between schools’ athletics departments. Michigan, for example, generates $185 million in athletics department revenue. Houston, by comparison, generates about $57 million in revenue. Both teams will compete in the Sweet 16 this weekend. There is parity when you are on the big stage in college hoops whether you are a Division I basketball only school or an FBS institution.
From the very beginning, college basketball was built on easy access for all. In fact, when James Naismith created the sport in the late 1800s, Naismith’s boss stipulated that this new game should be “fair for all players”.
Some teams, most notably Gonzaga, have transcended their underdog status and become national powers themselves, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of potential Cinderellas left in college hoops.
Norfolk State defeated Alabama in the NIT. Norfolk State’s athletics department revenue tops out at just over $13 million, while Alabama’s revenue is $174 million.
My alma mater Maryland played a close game against Belmont, which generates about $10 million in athletics department revenue compared to $94 million by Maryland.
College basketball is the great equalizer. There is nothing else like it. I look forward to seeing more March Madness.