Just a day apart, Duke, Virginia, and Kansas men’s basketball pulled out of the ACC and Big 12 conference championship tournaments after team members tested positive for COVID-19.
While holding the tournaments has potential to reward conferences financially, the risk of teams contracting COVID and losing March Madness eligibility may also negatively impact revenue.
Conferences reap millions in revenue from media rights for men’s basketball championship tournaments. If ratings are high, some conferences can earn extra, Katie Davis, a CPA who works for D-I conferences, told FOS College.
However, playing in conference tournaments may cost Duke, Virginia, and Kansas their NCAA tournament berths. Each team needs at least five non-quarantined players to submit seven consecutive negative tests to be eligible.
With fewer teams in March Madness, an entire conference’s bank account can suffer.
Conferences garner funds — called “units” — from sending as many teams as possible to the NCAA tournament. In 2021, Division I schools could receive a combined $613 million from NCAA distributions, some of that representing NCAA tournament unit earnings.
Virginia said it’s “exhausting all options” to compete in March Madness, and Kansas said it will prepare for the tournament “in a unique way.” Duke has not made a definite statement, though its fate hangs in the balance anyway as a bubble team.