Coming down with March Madness before the Big Dance may sound like an excuse to skip prom, but it actually describes our nationwide obsession with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This 68-team basketball bonanza has been known to crown a Cinderella or two, produce at least one shining moment a year, and turn millions of Americans into illegal gamblers. It’s that "good."
It’s also a big business both on and off the court, making millionaires out of coaches, conference commissioners and NCAA executives but very few players. Tournament time takes a toll on fans’ wallets, too, and not just in terms of the millions we lose in bracket pools each year. The average single-game ticket costs about $477, for one thing. Roughly 3.5 million extra cases of beer are produced to keep up with increased demand. And there’s the potential for some workplace conflict, since distracted employees cost businesses about $4 billion per year.
In the midst of our wallets getting lighter due to this basketball tournament there is another loss that screams "Madness" in March. Divisions I and II schools provide $2.7 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes. Division III schools, with more than 180,000 student-athletes, do not offer athletically related financial aid, but most student-athletes receive some form of academic grant or need-based scholarship.
*the average student athletic only gets about $18,000 in scholarships a year for college while the average annual cost of college is about $25,000. Who pays the $7,000 difference?