CRAWFORD | ACC's historic NCAA haul could soften financial blow - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | ACC's historic NCAA haul could soften financial blow of Louisville's ban

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Louisville played in front of a White-Out crowd of 21,714 against Virginia on Jan. 30. After its self-imposed postseason ban was announced, four of its next five crowds were larger than that one. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville played in front of a White-Out crowd of 21,714 against Virginia on Jan. 30. After its self-imposed postseason ban was announced, four of its next five crowds were larger than that one. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Atlantic Coast Conference is flexing its muscle this week in the NCAA Tournament. The entire right side of the bracket has become an ACC invitational.

North Carolina will face Notre Dame for one Final Four berth tonight. Virginia will get Syracuse in the other. No matter what happens, the ACC will have half the Final Four, and a team in the national title game.

It’ll also earn the biggest payday for any conference in NCAA Tournament history.

None of that, of course, is any comfort to the University of Louisville athletic program, which is serving a self-imposed ban from the tournament for violations discovered within its men’s basketball program.

But the league’s success will soften the financial blow for Louisville.

U of L sports information director Kenny Klein told WDRB that the school will not forgo any of its regular basketball disbursement from the ACC, which means that playing or not, it will collect its regular portion of the league’s revenue sharing.

The school, as reported by The Courier-Journal’s Andrew Wolfson last week, will make a modest amount from playing host to the NCAA’s South Regional in the KFC Yum! Center (the total was $314,921 when it played host to early-round games last season, according to the newspaper).

But the bigger payday comes from the league, and the performance of its teams in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s how it works.

The NCAA awards tournament winnings in units. Each game played in the 2016 tournament is worth $265,791 and is paid out to the conference over each of the next six years. That makes each tournament game worth just under $1.6 million over the six-year payout.

With two more victories guaranteed in Sunday’s final two Elite Eight games -- after advancing six of the conference's teams to the Sweet Sixteen -- and one more win assured at the Final Four, the ACC has locked up a record 25 units, worth an estimated $39.9 million dollars.

Split between the league’s teams, that’s $2.657 million per school. That amount, of course, is lumped in with the rest of the league’s revenue-sharing deals, TV contract, bowl game earnings, etc., to come up with a final number.

U of L also will receive a share of ACC Tournament proceeds, since the school purchased its regular allotment of tickets for the tournament. It gave fans who bought tickets from the school the option of returning those tickets for a refund, but was able to resell all of its tickets to avoid taking a loss on those.

Getting at a true picture of revenue lost is difficult, because so much of it is a game of “what if?”

Had Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 this season, would it have been as a seventh ACC team, or would the brackets have been shifted in such a way that another ACC team would have been at a disadvantage and not won its games?

There’s no way to tell.

Louisville didn’t suffer a dropoff in attendance after it announced its postseason ban. In fact, its attendance was higher after the ban than before it, owing mainly to top-flight ACC opponents visiting at the end of the season.

Numbers that won’t be evident for a while are from merchandise sales. Fans tend to buy fewer T-shirts, car flags and other items when their program falls upon hard times with the NCAA. That figure won’t be available for a while.

And whether the scandal hurts donations to the program will take even longer to learn.

One area in which the program remains in jeopardy revolves around whether the NCAA will move to vacate past tournament victories. If that happens, the program could be ask to repay NCAA Tournament units it received from past years. How likely such a decision is, however, can’t readily be known until the violations themselves are disclosed.

Certainly, when the school acknowledges details of what happened on its campus between its players and recruits, former director of basketball operations and graduate assistant Andre McGee and the former Louisville escort who wrote a tell-all book about providing strippers and prostitutes for players and recruits at parties arranged by McGee, there likely will be another public relations hit to take.

From Sept. 1 to the end of last year, the U of L athletics department paid Chuck Smrt and The Compliance Group $152,057. That figure may well rise significantly as the process nears a conclusion.

But we don’t know when that conclusion will come.

The cost to Louisville’s program in all this, certainly, goes beyond dollars and cents. The actual financial cost remains in flux.

In the meantime, the ACC’s success in the NCAA Tournament should help soften the blow, even if the school hasn’t been hit yet with the heaviest bills.

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