The Perils of the NCAA Tournament

On March 20, 2014, the Manhattan College men’s basketball team stood on the hardwood floor of the Amway Center in Orlando. Some players cried, others lowered their heads. The Jaspers had just been defeated 71-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by the Louisville Cardinals.

A year later, the Jaspers once again reached the NCAA Tournament, but suffered the same fate. A quick exit—this time in a First Four game—at the hands of the Hampton Pirates.

But while pain and agony exuded in each loss, the consecutive NCAA appearances marked a level of unparalleled exposure for Manhattan College. The coverage and publicity has led to an increase in revenue and expenses for the school’s athletic department.

The year before reaching the NCAA Tournament, the athletic department generated $10.8 million in revenue and expenses according to the school’s 2013-2014 Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act report. Three years later, that number has increased to $13.6 million.

“It immediately brings what I would like to say is new air into the building,” Steve Masiello, Manhattan’s head basketball coach said about the NCAA appearances. “I think it did that in both situations, where we kind of refocused the campus and rejuvenated the campus and the school comradery.”

Steve Masiello (left), admits the NCAA Tournament apperances have had a huge impact on athletics. Aaron Mayorga/The Quadrangle
Steve Masiello (left), admits the NCAA Tournament apperances have had a huge impact on athletics. Aaron Mayorga/The Quadrangle

Teams that reach the NCAA Tournament are awarded $1.7 million, which is divided into six year-payments distributed equally among the other teams in the schools’ conferences. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has 11 teams, so Manhattan has received roughly $26,000 after each tournament appearance, for a total of $52,000.

Richard Satterlee, vice president of student life at Manhattan, whose responsibilities include athletics, recognized that the money awarded from the NCAA tournament hasn’t directly been responsible for the nearly $3 million increase in revenue and expenses Manhattan has seen in three years. But the appearances have had a direct effect on the exposure of the school and the contributions from donors.

“They certainly didn’t hurt,” Satterlee said in a phone interview about the NCAA bids. “But also, the department has done some good old fashion hard work to improve their revenue generation. That has to do with making connections through the Jasper Athletic Club, with alumni and folks that are friends with the athletic department.”

The increase in alumni donations coincides with the creation of the Jasper Athletic Club in October of 2012. The club was made in an effort to fundraise for the athletic department. Members of the club have the option to donate to athletics or to a specific sport, and receive benefits such as memorabilia and access to special events.

Before the club, athletics had seen a $337,000 decrease in revenue and expenses from 2011 to 2012. In 2013, a year after the Jasper Athletic Club was constituted, the department bounced back with a $986,000 increase.

And since 2013, numbers have increased substantially. The growth reached its highest point from 2015 to 2016, where revenue and expenses increased by nearly $2 million.

“Anything that brings the passion and pride back, I think it’s a great feeling,” Masiello said. “I think our ability to get to the NCAA Tournament, basically play on the biggest stage in sports, was it great for our players? Yes. Was it great for me? Yes. Was it great for the current students? Yes. Who I’ve realized I think get the most out of it are the alumni. They go to dinner functions, they go to business meetings and they get to walk in and brag about something that they’re very passionate about, their alma mater.”

Manhattan won its first of consecutive MAAC titles in 2014. Chris Cirillo/ The Quadrangle
Manhattan won its first of consecutive MAAC titles in 2014. Chris Cirillo/The Quadrangle

Before the upsurge from 2015 to 2016, the athletic department had seen a steady growth every year since 2003. On average, athletics increased its revenue and expenses by $487,000 from 2003 to 2015.

But the NCAA tournament appearances have in part been responsible for an increase in revenue and expenses.

“They’ve really been great in terms of putting our brand out there, which is a really important piece of this,” Satterlee said. “They’ve done a great job of sort of representing who we are, which is a New York institution with a proud history and a hard-nosed approach to athletics.”

Manhattan’s brand has perhaps reached an all-time high since the NCAA tournaments. Following the first appearance in 2014, Manhattan signed a sponsorship deal with Under Armour for an undisclosed amount. In 2015, Manhattan reached a multi-year agreement with Learfield Sports, which manages all areas of Manhattan’s multimedia rights.

“Your brand, and I call it our stock, rises,” Masiello said about what the NCAA bids have done. “That’s what we are. We’re a stock. … I think it helps you raise your standards internally. It helps you say, ‘Hey, we’ve been to the NCAA Tournament. You have to act a certain way. You have to have a certain GPA. You have to conduct yourself in a certain way. People know who you are now and you can’t hide anymore.’”

The success of the men’s basketball program at Manhattan has been crucial to the budget increase of athletics because of how important the program is to the school. In 2016, the men’s basketball team generated 15 percent of the total revenue and expenses for athletics, the highest percentage among the school’s 17 Division 1 teams.

“I think that that is a really important part because it’s our most highly visible sport,” Satterlee said about the men’s basketball team. “It’s the sport that gets the most exposure.”

Men's basketball generated $2 million in revenue and expenses in 2016, the most for any team at Manhattan. Kevin Fuhrmann/The Quadrangle
Men’s basketball generated $2 million in revenue and expenses in 2016, the most for any team at Manhattan. Kevin Fuhrmann/The Quadrangle

Since the two appearances, the other sports on campus have also seen an increase in their budgets. In recruiting, the Jaspers have raised their expenses from $230,000 in 2013 to $280,000 in 2016.

Some teams, like women’s soccer, have translated the stronger financial commitment into success on the field. In 2015, the team reached the MAAC Championship game, its first in program history.

“I’m a huge believer that positive breeds positive, winning brings winning,” Masiello said. “It’s contagious. … When I saw women’s soccer last year go to the MAAC Championship, I was as excited as if it was us. That makes me want to get back there. It makes me want to taste that.”

Prior to joining Manhattan, Masiello was an assistant at Louisville, where he became accustomed to reaching the tournament every year. It is a culture Masiello is trying to bring to Manhattan. He has seen the effect it can have on an athletic department.

“I believe every year we should be in the NCAA Tournament,” Masiello said. “That’s who I think we are. I’m not going to change my standards or my expectations. If anything, I’m trying to raise it up. I’m trying to get us to think that way.”