Local News

ACC Men's Basketball A Multimillion Dollar Industry

Posted February 8, 2002

— With all the excitement created by Atlantic Coast Conference sporting events, did you ever wonder how much money it generates? ACC men's basketball games bring in the fans and big money.

An independent magazine,

The ACC Sports Journal

, reported last season that ACC men's basketball earned roughly $47 million, about $5 million per conference team. That money comes from the school's TV package, plus shared revenue from the NCAA and ACC tournaments.

The ACC would not discuss numbers, but another publication quoted similar figures.

"Every way you look at this huge economic monster that is ACC sports and ACC basketball, the numbers have been growing every year," said David Glenn,

ACC Sports Journal


Bucky Waters, a longtime basketball analyst, said without a doubt, men's basketball means big money.

"It's carrying entire athletic departments. The revenue producers, for the most part, in all schools is one -- basketball," he said.

That $5 million in annual ACC money is just the beginning.

  • Each ACC men's team in our area also earned $3 million to $5 million in ticket sales.
  • Other TV and radio deals, merchandising and concessions add up to another $1 million to $2 million.
  • The schools' booster clubs, which connect big donors with the best tickets, can generate more than $3 million a year in contributions.
  • It adds up to totals as high as $15 million and up, per team, per season.
  • "Twenty-five years ago, there were passionate sports fans that followed Duke and N.C. State and UNC. Twenty-five years later, the schools have been smart enough to turn that passion into a multimillion dollar industry," Glenn said.

    Where is all of the money going? Aside from the money raised by booster clubs, all the revenues raised by ACC teams are plowed back into the sports departments at their respective schools.

    Experts WRAL talked with said gender equity and other new rules make it difficult to field upwards of two dozen different teams, most operating in the red.

    N.C. State University Athletic Director Lee Fowler admitted that men's basketball gives his budget a 3-point shot in the arm.

    "A lot of facility improvements here other than basketball, they'll all be supported by, or at least in half by basketball," he said.

    The ACC men's basketball program has its critics -- even in the Triangle.

    UNC-Chapel Hill President Emeritus Bill Friday co-chaired a commission that concluded big-time, big-money college sports have led to ugly disciplinary incidents, academic fraud, dismal graduation rates, and uncontrolled expenditures.

    Friday said a deep recession, or something like a point-shaving scandal, would dramatically reduce all the revenue streams and force schools to take money from academics.

    "It is out of hand, has been out of hand, and somebody had better get a hold of it before it collapses," Friday said.

    "The easy thing to do is say that the universities have over-commercialized themselves, and football and basketball are out of control. I really don't see it that way," Glenn said.

    Glenn said schools should invest a lot of their assets in sports that pay the bills. It is a high-percentage shot that is money in the bank.

    While $15 million per ACC team may not sound like a lot, consider this: The money brought in by most men's basketball teams sometimes support as much as half of its schools' athletic budgets.


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