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March Madness 2023: UConn Significantly Outspends SDSU

UConn and San Diego State are both surprise March Madness finalists—it’s been nearly a decade since the NCAA title game didn’t feature at least one No. 1 seed—but the two are not entering Monday night’s game on equal financial footing.

UConn is, by most measures, a college basketball heavyweight. The school spent $24.9 million on its men’s team last year, more than any other public school in the country, thanks to an $11 million severance payment owed to former coach Kevin Ollie. Even without that payment, however, the Huskies spent nearly double the Aztecs ($7.2 million), according to numbers from Sportico’s college finance database.

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The difference is apparent across the budget. UConn paid current coach Dan Hurley and his staff $5 million last year, while SDSU’s Brian Dutcher and his staff made $2.6 million. UConn’s recruiting costs were 6.2x SDSU’s, travel was 2.8x, and meal costs were 9x.

The imbalance is less apparent on the revenue side. The two basketball programs both make a bit more than $4 million from ticket sales, and neither school earns much from media rights, because they play in smaller conferences (UConn competes in the Big East for basketball, and its football team is independent). UConn and SDSU athletics also balance their budgets with hefty support both from student fees and via direct institutional support.

It’s the first time in more than a decade that the men’s final featured two teams outside of college football’s “Power Five” conferences. The last time was 2011, when UConn (Big East) beat Butler (Horizon League). That was before the dramatic conference realignment that created today’s current NCAA power structure.

College sports is currently in the middle of another major shift, with athletes finally able to earn marketing money and looser transfer restrictions allowing players to change schools without sitting out. So far, that appears to benefit smaller programs. Final Four runs by SDSU, FAU and even NIL-heavy Miami lead many to believe the sport’s biggest stage is more accessible than at any other time in recent memory.

That may change soon. There’s yet another round of conference realignment on the way, and it’s unclear if that shift will ultimately help the richest programs separate from the others. There’s also a chance that a much bigger shift is coming—one in which college basketball players are paid actual salaries.

April 1: FAU Final Four Run Puts Realignment in Spotlight

March 31: South Carolina’s Final Four Run Backed by Big Money

March 30: The Workings of a Final Four ‘Small City’

March 29: Women Stars Lead Men in Social Media Following

March 28: Women’s Media Rights Could Get Complicated

March 27: Eliminated Early, SEC Nabs Tournament-High $34 Million

March 25: Players Still Adapting to New Wilson Ball

March 24: UConn Women Beat Football Team in Ticket Cash

March 23: FAU’s Dusty May Earning Bonuses and Job Attention

March 21: Financial Upsets Erase Chalk in Women's Bracket

March 20: Biggest Financial Underdog Is… Princeton?

March 19Princeton’s Ivy Peers Score NCAA’s Most Valuable Wins

March 18: CBI Leader Hails Pay-For-Play For Athletes

March 17: Iowa Star Caitlin Clark By The Numbers

March 16: No. 1 Seeds Look to Continue Recent Dominance

March 15: FDU Is Already a Cinderella Off the Court

March 14Can the NCAA Diversify Beyond its Cash Cow?

March 13Top Seeds Among Tournament’s Highest Spenders

March 13TV Ratings Up but Tournament May Miss Blue Bloods

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