In 2003, when the Butler Bulldogs made it to the Sweet Sixteen, the Horizon League gave them $120,000 for three games worth of expenses and had them split the rest of their earnings, worth roughly $600,000 for that year, with the other conference members.
But, as Butler got more dominant, things started to change. Last year, following the school's run to the championship game, the conference devised a new distribution formula. Before the pot was split among the conference members, the school's that earned the NCAA tournament game shares — worth roughly $250,000 per game this year — would receive about 30 percent of the money earned in that year before it was equally split among the 10 conference members.
"After Butler's run last year, I encouraged the schools in the conference to change the formula to reward the participating school more," said Jon LeCrone, who has been the commissioner of the Horizon League since May 1992.
It's only a one-year bump for the team that earns those shares. While Butler will make at least $300,000 from the $1 million the school is guaranteed to bring in from having played in four tournament games (including its Elite Eight game this weekend), the school will not receive a disproportionate part of the $5 million more than will come in over the next 5 years from Butler's run to the Elite Eight this year.
The new distribution gave Butler about $400,000 for its run to the championship game last year — the conference gets 5 shares since no additional money is paid to the teams for the championship game — plus the roughly $120,000 piece that every team in the conference received from Butler's participation.
Since 2000, Butler has played in 21 NCAA tournament games (22 if you count the Elite Eight). All other Horizon League teams combined have played in 11 games. That's the second biggest percentage of any school in any conference in the last decade following Gonzaga, which has played in 25 games or 73.5 percent of tournament games played by the West Coast Conference since 2000.
It brings up the question, how much should a conference be sharing when it has teams that carry so much of the load?
LeCrone defends the revenue sharing in general.
"I come out of the ACC and there have been times when Duke and North Carolina weren't on top," LeCrone said. "It's like the stock market, what is up can come down and what is down can go up."
As for Butler, its athletic director Barry Collier is kind of mixed.
"I'm in favor of killing socialism," Collier said. "But I also realize that this type of sharing allows you to strengthen the power of the conference that you are in."
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