Yale Bulldogs NCAA Tournament Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Yale Bulldogs guard August Mahoney (3) reacts after a game against the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The topic of expanding the NCAA Tournament has been gaining steam lately, though it’s far from a universally beloved idea.

Many reasons are cited in favor of and against expansion, but one that won’t be a factor is “more money from CBS and TNT Sports.”

Per the Sports Business Journal, while the two media companies would receive more games in the event the tournament expands, they wouldn’t be paying more. Their long-term deals with the NCAA do not contain an escalator clause.

Expansion would also mean more inventory for the networks — albeit First Four-caliber games are worth significantly less than, say, a Final Four contest. Still, with TNT Sports and CBS locked into a deal that runs through 2032 and, as those within the industry understand, no clause that triggers a renegotiation should more games be added, there’s little incentive for the networks to pay more. (The NCAA, CBS and TNT Sports each declined comment when asked if any such clause existed.)

Escalator clauses aren’t universal. The Big Ten’s media rights deals with CBS, Fox, and NBC have escalator clauses related to Notre Dame possibly joining the conference, while the Big 12’s media rights deal with ESPN (and not its deal with Fox) contains a pro rata clause, keeping the payout per school the same and increasing the overall value of the deal. Notably, the new College Football Playoff deal with ESPN doesn’t have an escalator clause in the event of future expansion from 12 to 14 teams.

The lack of an escalator clause in the NCAA Tournament media rights deals means that with expansion and more games, the value of a unit each conference receives for playing a game will decrease. This will end up hurting the smaller one-bid conferences, which likely still won’t get more than one team in the tournament, and will (shockingly) help the larger conferences, which will likely end up sucking up most of the extra bids in an expanded tournament.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.