Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Financial Story Makes Championship Game So Great


Simple fact: What makes tomorrow's game so awesome is that Butler just shouldn't be playing.

Why? Because it's the ultimate have against the ultimate have-not.

And unlike in the pro sports, where greater payroll creates a higher likelihood of, say, the Yankees making it to the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays getting there actually isn't that much of a long shot.

In pro sports, the disparity between the best players on the Yankees and the best players on the Rays actually isn't as great as people make it out to be.

Just look at the statistics on who wins titles. Aside from the NBA, who has only had seven winners over the past 25 years, every other sport seems to have tremendous parity. The NHL has had 12 different winners, the NFL has had 14 different winners and Major League Baseball has had 17 different winners over the last quarter century.

Point is, the so called have-nots have won titles.

In college basketball (add football as well), that just hasn't happened. Arkansas came from a power conference in 1994, so too did Villanova in 1985. And do your research and you'll find that UNLV was more well-heeled than they're given credit for in 1990.

It has nothing to do with the number of total students at a particular school, of course. Butler might have 4,000 students, but, remember, Duke has about 6,400.

It has everything to do with having the financial capacity to make this title game. And Butler just doesn't have it.

Let's give you some numbers.

Duke spent $394,068 per player last year, according to numbers filed with the government as part of the Equity in Athletics requirement. Butler spent $347,108 on player expenses for the entire team. The Duke basketball program grossed $11,842,009, while Butler's pulled in $1,729,756.

This year, the ACC will share $18,220,902 from the 82 games it has played in from 2004-2009 in the NCAA Tournament. Butler's Horizon League will only be splitting up $3,333,092 from the 15 games it has played over the same period of time.

And if you believe high priced coaches win big games, check this out. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski makes more than $4 million, while Butler's Brad Stevens, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, gets paid $350,000, plus $37,851 in benefits and deferred compensation.

In the pros, there's a system whereby the worst team theoretically has the best chance to get a great player the following the year. That doesn't happen in the college sports.

Bad teams stay bad. And, for the most part, have-nots need run after run like Gonzaga to up the quality of the player. First, you have to go see the players, which have-nots don't necessarily have the capacity to do.

Duke spent $353,498 on recruiting for its men's teams last year (we're assuming the majority of that number is basketball). Butler spent $75,045, and that number, unlike Duke's, includes football recruiting.

It's one of the reasons why Butler has 10 players from its home state of Indiana. Duke's roster, on the other hand, has players from eight different states. And on a campus visit?

Try comparing what has been done to Cameron Indoor since it was built in 1940 and Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, which was built in 1928 and has basically had one major renovation ($1.5 million in 1989) since then. (Butler's title run has led to the commitment to fund a $10 million renovation).

What makes this game so great it is the have against the have-not idea. But it's that much bigger because the have-not really hasn't won in this situation. It's also different because you get the feeling that if Butler wins there's a shot, that even in the conference they play in, they can turn into a much bigger program.

Gonzaga is in Spokane, Washington. Butler is smack in the middle of basketball hungry Indiana. Maybe a title means a local kid picks Butler over Indiana. Or just as impressive, a kid from far away decides Butler is the place he wants to be.

Questions?  Comments?