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News / Sports / College

‘Pac-2’ cashes in on NCAA tournament success

Washington State, Oregon State benefit from Pac-12 basketball wins

By TIM BOOTH, Associated Press
Published: April 2, 2024, 8:12pm

PORTLAND — Thanks to four men’s teams from the Pac-12 Conference making the NCAA Tournament — and all winning at least one game — Washington State and Oregon State have added another chunk of change to their coffers over the last couple weeks.

If only those same payouts were available on the women’s side of the tournament. Then the remaining two schools carrying the banner of the Pac-12 moving forward would really be cashing in.

Units are what the NCAA calls its revenue distributions from a fund that rewards teams for tournament performance. The NCAA Tournament generates more than $700 million in revenue for the association and its schools, the vast majority from its media rights deal with CBS and Turner.

The unit payouts that conferences and schools have been receiving on the men’s side could be coming to the women’s tournament in the near future, perhaps as early as next year, after the NCAA and ESPN agreed to a new eight-year deal that will pour an estimated $65 million annually into the sport.

These are significant sums of money. Each win by a school on the men’s side this year is worth roughly $350,000 for a conference and in the final year of the Pac-12 as it’s been known, the schools from the conference picked up 10 victories.

Those wins, and the money that comes with them, are part of a six-year rolling distribution that conferences receive – add up the number of wins over a six-year period, multiply it by the amount of money per win, and in Year 7 that’s the distribution total. Next year, with only two members remaining, that pot of money will mean around $17 million going to the conference – money that can only be distributed to Washington State and Oregon State.

“Those units are super helpful to OSU and WSU over the next two years because those units and those distributions from the NCAA stay with the conference. So that money that is coming into the Pac-12 the next two years, it would normally be divided by 12 is now just shared among the two,” Pac-12 Commissioner Teresa Gould said.

Ten wins is great and that money will be very important for the Beavers and Cougars in trying to maintain financial stability while in conference limbo. It just doesn’t match what the Pac-12 teams did in the women’s tournament this year.

Seven teams qualified for the NCAAs. All seven won at least one game. Five reached the Sweet 16. Two reached regional finals, including Oregon State and super freshman JuJu Watkins with Southern California. Oregon State fell to South Carolina, while USC lost to UConn in the Elite Eight.

In total, Pac-12 teams won 14 games in this NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve heard they’re doing a retroactive units program. I think that would be wonderful,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said smiling at the Portland Regional last week. “I think that’d really show how far women’s basketball has come. I’m someone that is in favor of that. I joked about it, but it would be fun to do the math of how many times we’ve been in the tournament, how far we’ve gone. If, in fact, that was a program, how much that would have benefited Stanford.”

There’s no doubt about the significance a revenue sharing program would have created for the women’s teams on the West Coast in the past with the success of programs like what VanDerveer has created at Stanford.

But for Oregon State and Washington State, as the two schools moving forward under the Pac-12 flag, any money at this point is important. If performance units come to the women’s tournament, that’s money the Cougars and Beavers would be able to collect as long as the Pac-12 doesn’t dissolve.

The two schools will play in the West Coast Conference for the next two seasons in basketball and Oregon State’s run should help boost brand relevance that can’t be quantified but is important with the unknowns of the future.

“We’ve done it at the highest level, and we’ve gotten to this point a couple times now,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “What the value is, I don’t know, but I know the timing of it is really great…. We can compete with anyone from there. I don’t know what the value is, but I know that happened, and it’s probably perfect timing for Beaver Nation, and it’s been a joy of mine to put smiles on people’s faces, especially this year.”