So how much money did UALR make for putting two teams, men's and women's, in the NCAA basketball tournaments? Not much. The men's team could have picked up some cash if they'd won a game; the women play strictly for pride. Both lost in the first round.
George Lee, chief financial officer for the UALR Department of Athletics, said he hasn't done the final calculations yet on expenses and reimbursement, but he expects that UALR will come out very little ahead, if any. UALR pays expenses such as food and lodging, but it's reimbursed $175 per person per day for NCAA-authorized personnel. That includes players, coaches, administrators, the band, and the dance team. The NCAA pays for chartered flights to the tournament sites, but that money goes to the provider, not the university. "They don't pay for any local transportation once you get to the game site," Lee said. "We had to rent two buses for each city. [Wichita and Dayton.] We won't get reimbursed for that."
The money distributed by the NCAA comes from television revenue. Since women's teams generate little if any such revenue, they don't win any money for winning games in the tournament. On the men's side, the NCAA pays up for each game won. This year, the payoff was $210,000. If the UALR men had defeated UNC-Asheville, 75 percent of that $210,000 would have gone to UALR, and the other 25 percent to the Sun Belt Conference, for distribution to other conference members.
But playing in the big tournaments has intangible benefits, besides pride. It helps in recruiting new players, and it provides valuable exposure for the school. "Look at Gonzaga," Lee said. Since Gonzaga started being a tournament regular a few years back, applications for enrollment have gone up sharply.