Simon Review Paper #10


Mid-major American universities spend a great deal of money on intercollegiate athletics. For example, the University of Buffalo recently spent $10-20 million to join NCAA Division One, and Southern Illinois University plans to spend $80 million to improve athletic facilities. Much of this money is spent because coaches and administrators see athletic success as a path to national recognition for their institutions. High-prestige competitions like the men’s NCAA basketball tournament are perceived as fair games that all schools have a chance to win, and regional universities invest millions in attempts to win them. This paper tests the logic of this behavior, by examining the success rates of several categories of schools over the past 10 NCAA tournaments. In fact, when examined statistically, the tournament is not a fair game. The last 10 champions have been wealthy universities from elite football conferences, as have 131 of the past 160 Sweet Sixteen entrants. Only one mid-major program has made the Final Four during the past decade. Colleges and regional universities have little chance of winning the tournament, and should consider reevaluating how they spend their limited budgets.