Illinois State University and other Missouri Valley Conference schools are rooting for Loyola Chicago in the NCAA basketball tournament for more than one reason. And some of those reasons are green.
In 2006 the conference had four teams in the tournament and two made it to the Sweet Sixteen. This year Loyola plays in the Final Four on Saturday against Michigan.
Illinois State University Athletic Director Larry Lyons says Loyola will get 30 percent of this year's share of revenue from the tourney, and the rest will be shared equally with the rest of the conference.
For the next six years, the revenue stream continues with the NCAA doling out cash annually to 11 Missouri Valley schools. Lyons said the units Loyola earn this year will in effect replace money earned by Wichita State when they went to the Final Four in 2013.
“What this has really done is solidify the Valley conference budget,” said Lyons.
Though Lyons says it’s not just basketball units that go into a conference budget, the NCAA money is certainly helpful. Television rights bring $1.1 billion per year to the NCAA. Every game in the tournament is worth about $1.8 million to the Missouri Valley Conference.
More Exposure For MVC
Lyons said money is not the only benefit the Missouri Valley Conference is receiving from Loyola’s Cinderella run.
“The bigger piece of the puzzle is all of this exposure Loyola is generating not just for Loyola, but for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can’t put a price on that," Lyons said.
And that’s been the rub for so called “mid-major” schools like Illinois State University for nearly a decade. A diminishing number of schools outside what’s considered the major conferences have received at-large invitations to play in the NCAA tournament. That includes ISU, which was not invited last year despite tying for the Valley championship with a 17-1 record. Common wisdom said Loyola, despite winning the regular season with a 15-3 record and finishing 28-5 overall, would not have been invited to this year’s tournament had it lost the conference tournament championship.
“It’s unfortunate. At the same time it’s 10 guys in the room trying to figure out who the best teams are based on the metrics they have. You can say the metrics are flawed, you can say there is individual bias, there’s all sorts of reasons,” said Lyons.
But critics have argued the metrics aren’t necessarily flawed; they just keep changing as smaller schools crack the formula. Lyons argues that’s because the committee members change year-to-year.
“So it’s the makeup in the room, how they’re interpreting the data and who they feel are the best teams. There are arguments in all directions on who the best teams are in a given year and the advantages and disadvantages of how schedules are put together,” said Lyons.
But if Missouri Valley Conference teams can’t crack the code, they can’t even compete for a chance at the large pile of tournament money that Loyola will bring to the Valley over the next six years.
“Really it’s going to take a fundamental shift in how those metrics are utilized and WHAT metrics are utilized. That’s the first part” said Lyons. “The second thing is … maybe it’s going to take a groundswell from the basketball public that there needs to be a change in how schedules are built.”
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