Not that long ago, Gonzaga was being courted by Mountain West; the deal that kept them with the West Coast Conference was the brainchild of athletic director Mike Roth. He looked for a way that WCC teams could get paid for winning in the tournament while moving away from the even split of tournament revenue that most conferences prefer — regardless of who wins.
“We all have the same opportunity when the year starts and we felt that whoever advances should be rewarded more so than they had been in the past,” Roth told the Associated Press.
The West Coast Conference, along with a lot of other mid-majors, gets a large chunk of their payouts from NCAA basketball money. The equal payout structure meant that the teams in the lower half of the conference make money off of the success of teams at the top.
The agreement between the WCC and Gonzaga also comes at a time in which mid-majors are seeing a growing gap with their Power Five peers when it comes to NCAA payouts.
The Power Five leagues and many of the mid-majors divide the money evenly regardless of how their teams perform, and that leads to uneven payouts versus performances. For example, Northwestern has been to the tournament once and has received $28 million more than it has contributed to the Big Ten.
According to statistics compiled by The AP, the Zags brought in more than $51 million to the WCC since 1999 based on their success:
-21 straight NCAA appearances
-One Final Four
-And recently, five straight trips to the Sweet 16
The NCAA suggests that conferences split the money evenly among all members, but Roth negotiated a new deal with a new share structure. Under the compromise’s terms, the conference will now divide the first unit of tournament revenue evenly among the 10 teams, but give the teams a larger slice of any additional units they generate by winning games.
This year, an NCAA unit is worth at least $1.68 million, an amount likely to grow over six years of payments. Every conference with an automatic bid gets one unit to disperse as it sees fit. Gonzaga has produced a total of 50 units in the 1997-2018 period studied by The AP. The other nine teams from the WCC have combined for 40.
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