March Madness Daily: Largest Financial Mismatch Produces Biggest Upset

Eben Novy-Williams
·2 min read

The largest financial mismatch of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament also produced its biggest upset.

Of the 43 games played so far in Indiana, none featured a bigger gap in what the two athletic departments spend annually than Ohio State ($198.6 million) versus Oral Roberts ($12.1 million). The Golden Eagles stunned the Buckeyes Friday afternoon, just the ninth time in tournament history that a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed.

The $186.5 million discrepancy, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, will come as little surprise to college sports fans. The Buckeyes have one of the largest athletic departments in the country, funding 36 sports, including its Big Ten football team. Oral Roberts sponsors just 16 sports, competes in the Summit League and doesn’t have a football team. In men’s basketball alone, Ohio State spends five times more than Oral Roberts.

The Golden Eagles’ upset of Florida on Sunday will also be the biggest financial upset of the second round. Though eight second-round games remain, none feature an athletics spending gap larger than the $131.5 million gap between the Gators and Oral Roberts.

In other games over the weekend, No. 14 seed Abilene Christian beat No. 3 seed Texas in the first round despite an athletics spending gap of $156.8 million. Other big money upsets include Ohio’s victory over Virginia ($80.6 million) and Loyola-Chicago’s win over Georgia Tech ($62.4 million).

Of the 31 matches that were played in the first round, 22% (seven) featured victories by the smaller athletic department. Of the eight matches played so far in the second round, 75% (six) had victories by the smaller athletic department.

This story uses figures from each school’s fiscal 2019, which avoids changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s numbers lack strict accounting protocols but tend to reflect a general financial snapshot, particularly on expenses.

Sportico will be publishing one short business highlight every weekday (and on some weekend days) during the three-week NCAA tournament.

March 18: The NCAA’s Billion-Dollar Empire is Built on Basketball

March 19: How Much is an NCAA Tournament Win Worth?

March 20: Men’s vs. Women’s NCAA Tournament Money

March 21: Indexing the NCAA’s Corporate Sponsors

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