It’s the afternoon before my final in calculus but rather than cramming like I should, I find myself scrolling through scores, obsessively switching games on my computer, watching all the numbers that certainly won’t help me come test time. If you walk through Knight Library you’ll find a similar scenario among the sea of monitors. This is March Madness. In fact, it’s such madness I’ve decided that it should be illegal to have finals during the same week of the tournament, but that’s a petition I’ll have going around next year. Yet as I avoid my work and watch the games, I have to think that there is something much different about the road to a college basketball championship than any other national sporting event.
For starters there’s more interaction. The process of filling out a bracket, watching it all get shred to pieces, and tracking more than one game is much more work than settling in for the Super Bowl or World Series. And the truth is basketball is the perfect sport for this sort of set up. It’s fast, it’s easy to follow, and it’s hard to get bored. And while millions of Americans swipe up a little dough from work pools, the big bucks are pulled in from participating Universities around the country.
Aside from broadcasting rights and other streams of revenue brought in from the tournament, one of the more crucial payoffs schools get by making the tournament is exposure. Prior to seeing their names on the March Madness bracket, I wouldn’t have been aware that schools like Florida Gulf Coast, Valparaiso, or Virginia Commonwealth University existed. In fact, according to a recent article by Forbes magazine many schools see an increase in both applications and donations given to schools and athletic departments. The same must be true of Bowl Games and other events that fall under the national spotlight but there are few events that can draw attention to 60 schools over the course of four days.
For Oregon fans it’s understandable to be a little irked by the 12 seed spot after their Pac-12 championship win. But in the bigger picture any team that can make the initial first round cut is reaping some sort of benefit. While Oregon isn’t necessarily starved of attention, it’s important for their athletic department to establish themselves on a stage that’s not the gridiron. It’s not just about Oregon either but the conference as a whole. This year the Pac-12 boasts 5 teams in the big dance which can only go to help the conference.
Overall, March Madness is a time like none other. It marks a week where I’ll throw aside my books and watch basketball. It’s the one week when I’ll learn that there is actually a Florida Gulf Coast University out there. It’s perhaps one of the stranger college fundraisers out there but for the schools that make it, win or lose, there’s a small victory to be made.