Brackets and billions: Five figures that measure the money in March Madness

After a one-year hiatus that probably felt much longer for die-hard sports fans, March Madness is back. The NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments return this weekend after being canceled last year because of COVID-19.

Locally, the University of Missouri men’s team and Missouri State University women’s team both qualified for their respective tournaments. The MU men drew an 8 seed and will face Oklahoma, a 9 seed, Saturday in the opening round. The MSU women are a 5 seed and get a first-round matchup Monday with the University of California-Davis, seeded 12th.

Both tournaments will feature the best college teams from across the country vying for a national title. They will also generate loads of spending in the form of betting, media rights and more.

Here’s a look at five numbers that help tell the money story of March Madness:


The men’s and women’s tournaments this year will take place in single states — Indiana and Texas, respectively — with limited fans in attendance. That contrasts with pre-pandemic tournaments that featured games in more than a dozen sites over the course of three weeks, driving economic impact across the country.

This year, the men’s tournament is expected to have an economic impact of more than $100 million on the Indianapolis area, according to a WalletHub report.

47 million

More than 47 million Americans are expected to make bets on March Madness, according to a report from the American Gaming Association, a gambling industry group. That number is about the same as in 2019.

However, the number of people planning to bet online is up 208%, and the number planning to bet in physical sportsbooks has jumped 79%. Those increases come as sports gambling has been legalized in 14 new jurisdictions since 2019, according to the gaming association.

$600 million

The NCAA lost more than $600 million in annual revenue because of COVID-19, according to WalletHub. Having the tournaments back is a big boost to business for the NCAA.

$19.6 billion

CBS and Turner Broadcasting are paying nearly $20 billion for exclusive broadcast rights for the men’s tournament from 2011 to 2032, according to Reuters. The networks and the NCAA struck that deal in 2016.

The value of the tournament’s TV right has increased more than 4,500% since 1986, according to WalletHub.


Despite all the money swirling around March Madness, the athletes themselves will make no money off the tournaments. The NCAA says the value of a Division I men’s basketball scholarship is about $71,000, according to WalletHub. But players cannot profit off their college sports exploits.

Several prominent players have posted on social media expressing their frustration with NCAA restrictions, and many used the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty.

A proposal brought before the NCAA would allow athletes to profit off their “name, image and likeness,” but the organization announced in January that the proposal had been tabled.


Missouri Business Alert’s Michael Stacy contributed to this report.

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