While the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is hosted in “neutral” sites away from campus, the Women’s NCAA tournament is hosted by Universities, who must bid in order to host games for the first two rounds. In later rounds, the games are moved to neutral sites. A recent ESPN article noted that there is a big financial risk for those schools who host NCAA women’s basketball tournament games. As part of hosting these games, the schools are required to make a commitment to bring in a certain amount of revenue which will be given to the NCAA. If this amount isn’t reached, the school (or rather its athletic department) must make up the difference. In other words, if no one shows up to the games, not only will the school have to pay all of the expenses, they will also have to pay money to the NCAA for not having people show up.
The article points out that there is often uncertainties among host schools about how much money should be allocated to various finances, and that of six sites which hosted games and did not have their home team play, five of them didn’t make enough money to cover the guaranteed money to be given to the NCAA. Some schools have lost between $30,000 and $40,000 in hosting this event, but it is noted that schools like Michigan State have accepted these losses in order to bring their team home court advantage. While the school posted a $30,000 loss in hosting the Women’s NCAA tournament last year, the gamble did pay off on the court, as the home court crowd helped boost the team to an upset victory. Notably, Rutgers also pulled off an upset by “buying” themselves home court advantage, despite being a lower seed.
Things are quite different in the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournament, and it seems like several schools are taking big hits in the checkbook because of the way the women’s tournament is run. The question is, if the NCAA hosted the first and second round Women’s NCAA games at a neutral site, would they bring in as much revenue, and would as many fans come to games? I’d be interested in seeing if such a comparison exists.