How much is the NCAA Wrestling Championship Tournament worth to ESPN?

Saw these tweets pop up on my timeline, RT’d by the ever insightful @adamtirapelle

Wrestling is worth some portion of those thirty-one point seven millios. Based on the very unscientific method of personal recollection of which NCAA sports’ championships I see broadcast most often on the ESPN family of cable channels, these are the sport I would assume ESPN would pay for if they had to negotiate a deals individually.

Women’s Bball
Non BCS Football
Men’s Hockey
Baseball
Men’s Lacrosse
Wrestling
Men’s Soccer
Softball
Track & Field
Gymnastics
Women’s Volleyball

That’s my best guess for order of value as well, but since it’s only a W.A.G., let’s be generous and assume that ESPN values wrestling and 5 other sports sort of equally, with the rest thrown in as extra gravy. That puts the value of the broadcast rights to the NCAA Wrestling Tournament at about FIVE MILLION U.S. BUCKS.

Not bad, but still only a rounding error when compared to the paper the NCAA is stacking up from the Men’s Basketball Tournament.

But what about the wrestling tournament itself? Doesn’t that generate money through ticket sales, concessions, etc? I believe it does, and though I can’t find the source at the moment, I think it’s been said on record that only 5 DI championship tournaments produce net revenue: Wrestling, Baseball, Hockey, Men’s Lax, and Men’s Basketball (duh). I believe Women’s Basketball would make the list if you only counted the Final Four. But all the costs of travel and hosting during those opening rounds of the tournament add up.

This handy article from USA Today states that in 2012, revenue from championship tournaments – and National Invitation Tournaments – was $102M. So how much of that is wrestling tourney bucks? This is a little trickier to guess.

I imagine men’s basketball, including the NIT, is most of it. I don’t think it will follow the exact same ratio as the TV money (which is 140:1 – yikes), but it’s certainly not an equal split either. My clumsy stab in the dark at the ratio is 80:5:5:5:5. So Men’s Basketball at $80M and the four other sports split the remaining $20M, with $2M leftover for fencing (or whatever).

I can’t think of any component to college wrestling that would generate a comparable revenue stream, although maybe the Big Ten Tournament. But then the programs that operate in the red that would cancel out the gains from elsewhere, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call everything else a wash. Still, $10 Million isn’t a bad number to start with. Plumping that up should be the priority of all the head coaches and mindful ADs out there. Totally doable IMHO.

And any comments, corrections or suggestions regarding my figuring are welcome. Don’t hesitate to let me know if I screwed up!

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