Economics

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March Madness: Broken Brackets and Broken Bank Accounts

5 Apr, 2017

By: Michael Popke

Now that a new champion has been crowned in men’s college basketball, teams, fans and players’ families can sit down and add up how much the road to the Final Four cost them.

According to a USA Today Network report, families of players on Final Four teams receive money for travel expenses:

The NCAA in 2015 moved to alleviate some of the travel costs for families of men’s and women’s college basketball players, but the organization’s initial measure only applies to families of players whose teams reach the Final Four.

Each athlete’s family receives up to $3,000 to pay for transportation, hotel and meal expenses if their team reaches the Final Four, which is in Phoenix this year. Families get $4,000 if the player’s team reaches the championship game.

The NCAA sends the money to the school, which is charged with dispersing the funds to players’ families. The statement announcing the organization’s decision to continue the program for the 2017 Final Four, released in October, said the Division I Council is “committed to reviewing this topic over the next year to find the best possible permanent plan to ensure these championships are an affordable experience for families.”

But families of players on teams that don’t make it that far are sometimes forced to decide whether they can even afford a trip to the first and second rounds. Scott Snider, whose son, Quentin, plays for the University of Louisville, shelled out a few thousand dollars to travel to Indianapolis and watch the Cardinals beat Jacksonville State before losing to Michigan.

“You only get four years of it, so you have to enjoy it,” Scott Snider told the USA Today Network. “I don’t really stress over spending the money, because I know … those are memories you’ll always have. … And he got a free education so it all pays off. I look at it as an investment in my kid.”

Fans, on the other hand, most likely looked at buying tickets as an investment in themselves. And if they wanted to be thrifty, they also had to be choosy. According to TicketIQ, a search engine that collects data from the resale market, the average resale price for a ticket to the first-round session in Greenville, S.C., featuring No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy and No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette was $984. At the other end of the spectrum the average resale price of a ticket for a first-round session in Orlando with No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 North Carolina-Wilmington and No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State was $93.

BillyPenn.com, a website dedicated to news and information about Philadelphia, estimated that it would cost a Villanova fan about $2,550 — without food or drink — to follow the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed all the way to the Final Four. Of course, the Wildcats dropped a shocker to No. 8 Wisconsin in the second round, so the Badgers saved Villanova fans plenty of cash. 

Even the National Invitation Tournament (the NCAA tournament’s less-popular step-brother) struggles with the costs of college basketball in March. Malcolm Hill Sr., father of University of Illinois star Malcolm Hill, admitted to the local media  after the Illini beat Boise State at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill., that he couldn’t swing the cost of a trip to Orlando — during spring break season and on less than 48 hours’ notice — to be in the stands when his son’s team played the University of Central Florida in the next round.

“I’ve got a lot of bills to pay,” Hill said. “Malcolm understands that.”

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