Straight Facts, No Gimmicks: The Economics Behind March Madness

The Economics Behind March Madness

The NCAA Tournament is one of the most anticipated sports events of the year. Every March, Madness ensues as 68 teams are invited to partake in the biggest basketball tournament of the year. Small schools, mid-majors and blue blood programs all unite to crown the National Champion in college basketball. And behind the NCAA tournament there is A LOT of money. And I mean a WHOLE lot of money. The NCAA tournament is a money printing machine for networks, casinos, and the schools. Here are some key facts behind economics of the madness of March. This is Straight Facts, No Gimmicks with the Pod That Brothers, George & Sami Jarjour.

Short History Of The Tournament

  • This is the 83rd year of the NCAA tournament, which a started in 1939 with just 8 teams. 
  • Oregon won the first ever tournament against Ohio state! 
  • Obviously it has now grown to 64 teams, plus a couple play-in games 
  • UCLA is still sitting at 11 Titles which is the most of all-time. They are back in it in 2022.

Corporate And Money

  • $13.8B Corporate losses due to unproductive workers during March Madness per WalletHub
  • On average workers are wasting 6 hours watching March Madness 
    • But it is a waste?
  • 56% of millennials are willing to miss a work deadline to watch a March Madness Game
  • To example the impact college basketball has, Kentucky’s John Calipari earns $8.1M a year as the highest paid coach, in perspective the Universities president and states governor make a combine $1.2M
  • $1.16B in annual revenue for the NCAA in 2021
  • & of course the athletes themselves get paid $0 for the tournament


  • How much has the betting world impacted the NCAA tournament? 
    • $10B is the estimated amount wagered on the 2022 tourney.
    • $4B has been wagered illegally
  • 149M Brackets Completed in 2019 v. 156M Ballots for Prez election 
  • 38% of people don’t even know if it’s legal to Venmo your co-worker or buddy $20. 
  • 30% more money is wagered on March Madness than the Super Bowl
  • There has never been one single perfect bracket known to man.
    • The odds are 1 in 9,200,000,000,000,000,000 
      • Aka 9.2 Quintillion
  • 2X easier to win back-to-back lotteries, buying 1 ticket only each time, than it is to make a perfect bracket….

TV Viewership

  • CBS Paid $19.6B for broadcasting rights from 2011-2032 
    • Just under a billion per year
  • Just the ad revenue alone from the 2021 tournament was $944M
  • Ever thought of throwing your business on a TV ad during March Madness? Well, while its not Super Bowl price at $7M per 30-second ad, the NCAA Title Game will still cost you $2M for 30 seconds
  • Apparently there was 1 BILLION minutes streamed of game in the first two days of 2021 March Madness 

Fan Fuel

  • 19% percent increase in beer sales during March Madness
  • 19% increase in pizza orders by fans after losses v. Wins
    • Pounding down a couple extra sad beers
  • 2.3B wing portions consumed by fans during the tournament (14 wings per viewer)
  • Want to hit the games?
    • Average ticket prices $376 dollars for single games
    • Good news though, you can spend some more money now cause this is the 3rd year that Beers will sold at the Final Four. 
    • The bad news, outside of the Final Four location, no beers are sold at the NCAA tournament…

Written by @GeorgeONTap

The Co-Founder of the Sports ON Tap & Found every where @GeorgeoNTap. Sports, Travel, Experiences. All Things Sports.

+ Doing Seattle Sports for @SeattleONTap aka Sports ON Tap Seattle.