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Who really makes money from March Madness? You'd be surprised.

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Who really makes money from March Madness? You'd be surprised.

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Coaches? Schools? Players? The NCAA?

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Villanova players celebrate on the court after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against North Carolina, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. Villanova won 77-74. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It's fun to watch the games, and it's also a chance for schools to gain recognition and show off their talented teams. However, contrary to popular belief, colleges that participate in the tournament do not always reap cash rewards.

Money from the NCAA 

The NCAA pays each Division I conference that participates in the tournament based on its teams' performance over the past six years. As a team advances through the tournament, its conference earns one "unit" from the NCAA. Each unit is worth around $250,000, and this amount increases each year. 

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FILE - In this Monday, April 4, 2016, file photo, Villanova guard Josh Hart (3) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game in Houston. Defending national champs lost very little and have player of the year candidate Hart back. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Although this seems like a lot of money, it is always divided between the schools within each conference, which means less cash for everyone. Also, the schools usually have to wait a year or more to receive the money.

Sponsorship, broadcasting and ticket sales

One of the benefits of playing in the tournament is that schools have the opportunity to earn money from increased merchandise and ticket sales. 

Also, many smaller schools have been able to gain invaluable recognition, using the exposure from nationally televised games to promote themselves. The publicity also helps as athletic departments recruit potential players. 

Paying coaches and building up athletic programs

While all of this makes it sound like there's lots of money to gain, the expenses that come with playing in the tournament make it hard for a college to profit. 

Oftentimes, schools use the money they receive from March Madness to help fund their athletic programs as a whole, rather than just the basketball team. The funds cover the expenses of non-revenue generating sports like volleyball and swimming.

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FILE - In this April 6, 2015, file photo, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski cuts down the net after his team's 68-63 victory over Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game in Indianapolis. The parallels between this Duke team and the group from 2014-15 seem too obvious to ignore: A roster dominated by one-and-done freshmen led those Blue Devils to their fifth national title, and now a repeat of that year certainly appears possible _ maybe even likely. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

A good amount of the money earned also goes toward coach’s salaries. At top Division I schools, a coach’s salary can be in the millions, and they can even receive bonuses in the event that they win.

The NCAA benefits the most

While schools are struggling to make a profit off of the tournament, the NCAA makes millions on licensing fees. 

While the NCAA is rolling in the dough, the reality for most schools is that one-third of the 68 teams that participate just barely break even or even lose money for their basketball programs.

March Madness Money

(The article was provided by Circa Campus in partnership with GenFKD who has fellows on college campuses around the nation. Circa Campus contributor, Allana Palomino contributed to this article.)


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