I completed a NCAA tournament bracket – provided by ESPN – based on an analysis of federal filings from each of the 64 teams in the tournament this year. First, I compared teams based on the size of their sports surplus, the revenue from all sports minus the cost of running all sports programs. Second, I compared teams with equal surpluses (34 programs break even) based on the amount of revenue they generate.
A few caveats. This data is only as good as what the schools tell the federal government and some schools may interpret the instructions (75 pages here) differently.
Although it is possible to compare schools based on the finances of individual sports, this data has even more caveats. The best example is apparel. When someone buys a Wolverines hat, is that football or basketball revenue? Or what about rowing?
A few interesting observations. Let’s start with some upsets in the South.
Michigan (4) goes to the Final Four and on to win the tournament, while Georgetown (2) loses to Florida Gulf (15). The Hoyas lose because they break even while the Eagles eke out a small surplus on less than one third the revenue.
Akron (12) beats VCU (5) and Minnesota (11) beats UCLA (6).
In the Midwest, five-seed Oklahoma State defeats number-one Louisville, only to lose to Michigan State (3) who also took out Duke (2). New Mexico State (13) beats St. Louis (4). Cincinnati (10) beats Creighton (7).
In the East, Indiana makes it to the Final Four, the only top-ranked team to do so. The top of the bracket is entirely conventional with better seeds winning. The bottom of the bracket is nearly the opposite. Davidson (14) makes it to the Sweet Sixteen and Colorado (10) makes it to the Elite Eight taking out Miami and Illinois (sorry, Dad) along the way.
The West is the most competitive bracket. Three of the top four teams in my analysis are in this bracket: Ohio State, Notre Dame and Kansas State. Ohio State (2) takes out Notre Dame (7) early. Kansas State (4) defeats Gonzaga (1) before losing to Ohio State.