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Here’s How Much March Madness Really Pays

It takes a lot of professionals to keep the massive tournament humming. You may be surprised who gets the most.

The annual college basketball extravaganza known as March Madness has always been a welcome distraction for winter-weary American workers. This year the tournament may provide a respite from tense political chatter, too. Although the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s tournament lasts just a few weeks, its impact cannot be overstated, both in offices across the country and among the army of schools, players, and professionals who make it happen. Not only can future professional basketball stars emerge, but just one upset victory can trigger a huge boost in student applications for a Cinderella school, and coaches who make it all the way can cash in on some major bonuses.

For some, it’s the only time they gamble—filling in their brackets, paying attention to the sports pages, and comparing notes with co-workers. For others it’s an obsession that spans the whole season, or even the whole year. Beyond the players, it takes a lot of people to put on an event of this size, and new data from Monster Worldwide Inc. shine a light on the key actors off the court, how much money they make, and what the truly devoted might have to do if they want to be part of the big show.

QuickTake QuickTake: College Sports

If you’ve ever wondered about how you can get more involved (without being good at actually playing the game), here are some job suggestions from and potential compensation to consider. You may be surprised who gets paid the most.


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While their average pay is just $24,870 a year, referees can make upwards of $1,500 per game during the tournament. And there isn’t much need for years of education, since 96 percent have no college degree. Of course, the referees who are chosen for the tournament, especially the Final Four, have far more experience than the average referee and have been officiating games for years. In fact, many of them are chosen multiple times: Last year one of the Final Four refs was making his seventh appearance. 

Mike Krzyzewski

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

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College basketball coaches generally earn an average of about $31,000 a year, but people like Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University make a lot more. Salaries for many of the coaches who reached the tournament this year are higher than $1 million. They, unsurprisingly, often have a lot more than the average experience level of three to seven years on the sidelines. Depending on the coach’s contract, there might also be a bonus for how far they get in the tournament.

Broadcasters Bill Raftery (left), Grant Hill, and Jim Nantz.

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The average salary for an NCAA broadcaster is about $30,080 per year, but giving the play-by-play for big games like these will pay a much higher sum. Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery are set to be the main announcers this year and are all likely to make six or seven figures for their trouble.

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Athletic Trainer

Outside of professional sports, college athletic programs will draw some of the best in the training fields to ensure players are well cared for. While the average trainer earns $44,670 a year, expect the crew for the tournament to have annual salaries higher than that. They’re also likely to have more than the average education and experience level, which is a bachelor’s degree and as many as two years on the job.


Photographer: Kate Krader/Bloomberg

We’ve heard of the strict diet NFL quarterback Tom Brady follows, and though college athletes aren’t usually as intense, they certainly get guidance from professionals. While the average for all dietitians is $57,910 a year, expect those working the tournament to have higher annual salaries. They’re also likely to have a higher education level and several more years of experience than average.

Social Media Manager

Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. logos are displayed on computer screens in this arranged photo in New York, U.S., on Monday Jan. 30, 2012. A Facebook IPO would provide funds to help the social-networking service maintain its expansion and fend off competition from Internet rivals such as Google Inc. and Twitter Inc. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg
Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

In this day and age, promoting the games on social media is a big part of the marketing strategy. The average salary for someone with the title “social media manager” is $56,770 per year, so they’re far from the highest-paid on the list but certainly play an important role.


Photographer: Hidehiro Kigawa/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Good with numbers and want to keep track of everything from fouls to who’s scoring? You could rake in north of $80,110 per year, which is the average salary for a statistician and more than what the rest of the supporting cast makes. Be ready to create reports for league officials and those highly paid coaches, though: They’re going to want to know how each player is performing to maximize how far their team goes in the tournament.