The Real Cost of March Madness

By Ben Steverman, with Eben Novy-Williams and Seth Magalaner - 2012-03-21T23:12:14Z

Photograph by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Spoils to the Victors

Does tournament success help a school with admissions, academics or alumni giving? Most studies find tiny or nonexistent effects. One large 2009 study found that an NCAA men's tournament appearance boosted applications by 1 percent the next year. Making it to the "Sweet 16" raised it 3 percent, a Final Four appearance 4 to 5 percent and a championship 7 to 8 percent. Private schools saw application rates rise 2 to 4 times more than public schools did.

Success can have a big impact on schools with lower athletic profiles. Virginia Commonwealth University, a "Cinderella" team that made the 2011 Final Four, saw donations to its athletic department gain 376 percent and overall giving rise 46 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Steverman at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Suzanne Woolley at