NCAA Tournament Success A Financial Game-changer for Pac-12’s Washington State and Oregon State

NCAA Tournament Success: A Financial Game-changer for Pac-12’s Washington State and Oregon State

Thanks to four Pac-12 Conference men’s teams making the NCAA Tournament and winning at least one game, Washington State and Oregon State have added another chunk of change to their coffers in recent weeks.

If only the same payouts were available for the women’s side of the event. The remaining two institutions that would bear the Pac-12 banner moving forward would be truly cashing in.

Units are how the NCAA refers to revenue disbursements from a fund that awards teams for tournament performance. The NCAA Tournament provides more than $700 million in revenue for the association and its schools, with the vast bulk coming from broadcast rights deals with CBS and Turner.

The unit payouts that conferences and schools have received on the men’s side may be coming to the women’s tournament in the near future, possibly as early as next year, after the NCAA and ESPN agreed to a new eight-year contract that will invest an estimated $65 million per year in the sport.

These are significant amounts of money. Each men’s win this year is worth approximately $350,000 to a conference, and in the final year of the Pac-12, the conference’s schools won ten games.

Those wins, and the money that comes with them, are part of a six-year rolling distribution that conferences get; tally up the number of wins over a six-year period, multiply by the amount of money per win, and that is the distribution total in Year 7. Next year, with only two members remaining, the conference will receive around $17 million, which can only be awarded to Washington State and Oregon State.

“Those units are extremely beneficial to OSU and WSU for the next two years because those units and NCAA distributions remain within the conference. So the money that is coming into the Pac-12 over the next two years, which would typically be divided by 12, is now merely split between the two,” Pac-12 Commissioner Teresa Gould said.

Ten victories is excellent, and the money will be critical for the Beavers and Cougars as they attempt to preserve financial security while in conference limbo. It just doesn’t compare to what the Pac-12 teams accomplished in the women’s tournament this year.

Seven teams qualified for the NCAA Championships. All seven players won at least one game. Five made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Two made it to the regional finals: Oregon State and Southern California’s super freshman JuJu Watkins. Oregon State lost to South Carolina in the Elite Eight, while USC was eliminated by UConn.

In total, Pac-12 teams won 14 games in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve heard they’re implementing a retroactive unit program. “I think that would be wonderful,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said with a smile at the Portland Regional last week. “I think that would demonstrate how far women’s basketball has progressed. I’m in support of that. I joked about it, but it would be interesting to calculate how many times we’ve participated in the tournament and how far we’ve progressed. If that been a program, how much would it have helped Stanford?”

With the success of programs like VanDerveer’s at Stanford, there is no debate about the importance of a revenue sharing program for women’s teams on the West Coast in the past.

But for Oregon State and Washington State, the two colleges moving forward under the Pac-12 banner, any money at this point is critical. If performance units attend the women’s tournament, the Cougars and Beavers will be eligible to earn funds as long as the Pac-12 does not disintegrate.

The two institutions will compete in the West Coast Conference for basketball for the next two seasons, and Oregon State’s success should help enhance brand relevance, which cannot be quantified but is vital given the unknowns of the future.

“We’ve done it at the highest level, and we’ve gotten to this point a couple times now,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “I’m not sure what the value is, but the timing is ideal…” We can compete with anybody from there. I’m not sure what the value is, but I know it happened, and it’s probably excellent timing for Beaver Nation, and it’s always a pleasure for me to put smiles on people’s faces, especially this year.”

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