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We already knew it, but the NCAA’s announcement Monday that its entire men’s basketball tournament will be held in a single city in March of 2021 — likely Indianapolis — tells us something pretty important about the state of things in college athletics.
Come COVID-19 hell or high water, March Madness will be played next spring.
It doesn’t have to be a normal NCAA Tournament or Final Four. It doesn’t necessarily have to have fans in the stands. Heck, it doesn’t even really need to be preceded by much of a regular season — and more on that in a moment.
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The whole point was spelled out in the last line of the NCAA’s news release: “CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to distribute all 67 games of the tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV and their digital platforms.”
A sentence worth $850 million if there ever was one.
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With a $270 million insurance policy recouping some of that money, the NCAA could survive canceling one year of March Madness, the event that accounts for almost the entire lot of its $1.1 billion in annual revenue. It can’t survive a second.
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In a world that revolves around COVID-19, nothing is guaranteed. But the NCAA can’t afford to leave much to chance, so this is the only solution that makes sense.
“We’ve seen that the pandemic has been managed at the state, county and city level with local health authorities,” senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in an interview posted to the NCAA’s Web site. “That’s almost certainly going to be the case even in March and April and trying to run an event of 68 teams, 67 games over three weeks in a safe and responsible way really needs to be managed in a much more controlled singular environment.”
It won’t exactly be a bubble, but at least it’s a plan. And it’s one that removes a lot of the variables that could potentially derail an NCAA Tournament being played in an environment where COVID-19 infection rates are still high nationally.
Indianapolis, where the NCAA is headquartered, has more than 7,700 hotel rooms in the downtown area. It has Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Final Four was originally scheduled to be held in 2021, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse as potentially primary venues. You’ve got college basketball arenas at Butler University and IUPUI along with several large high school gyms in the metropolitan area that would be perfectly acceptable.
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The NCAA says it continues discussions with other cities if things fall through with Indianapolis, but clearly the preference is to keep things close to home. The key takeaway, though, is that a normal NCAA Tournament would be far more difficult to pull off.
Rather than try to manage the logistics of eight first-weekend sites and four regional sites around the country, the NCAA can control everything from food service to transportation to testing from one centralized location. The teams that continue to advance in the tournament stay, the losers go home.
It doesn’t guarantee a foolproof tournament or that every player will test negative for three weeks. But given the alternative of having teams fly all over the country and potentially to multiple cities where infection rates and local health protocols may be vastly different, it sure seems like a smart way to put more elements under the NCAA’s control.
“We coalesced around a decision that we were not going to be able to host the tournament in 13 different sites,” Kentucky athletics director and NCAA basketball committee chairperson Mitch Barnhart said. “Through the pandemic, it was unreasonable to expect that.”
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The NCAA may not be particularly effective at a lot of things, but it knows how to put on events. This is going to work because the NCAA has been watching the COVID-19 trends for months and can’t afford to leave anything to chance.
Which is exactly the opposite of how college basketball at large is going to try to operate from now until the beginning of this tournament.
A few months ago, there was a lot of talk about creative ideas for how to get games in or conferences trying to build semi-bubbles in one location where teams would play a bunch of games in a short period of time. Though a few multi-team events for non-conference games are still on track, a bunch of others have fallen apart or are shifting in real time. Everything seems rushed and haphazard.
Meanwhile, conferences are putting out schedules, but there aren’t a lot of open dates to account for games being postponed due to positive tests. Several schools around the country have halted practice, and coaches are resigned to the likelihood that at some point they’ll have to shut down for a couple weeks and miss several games.
If the NCAA doesn’t move the tournament back to make up those games — something that clearly isn’t the NCAA’s preference but wasn’t completely ruled out by Gavitt — it’s certainly possible some teams could head into Selection Sunday having played fewer than 20 games.
COVID-19 hampers men's college basketball's start, causing scheduling headaches
Schedule makers and infectious disease experts both agree on one thing: The start of the men's basketball season could be a chaotic mess.Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is sharing with his players the same sentiment this November he told them last March before the NCAA tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic: Control what you can control.
But that’s not the NCAA’s problem or its responsibility. As long as there are 68 teams available, they’ll live with that.
Ultimately, the only thing that matters for the short and long-term future of the NCAA is collecting that big check from CBS and Turner. By launching its plans for the tournament now, the NCAA is letting everyone know its survival is at stake.
No. 1: John Calipari, Kentucky: $8,158,000 – In June 2019, Calipari and the school signed a new 10-year contract. His basic pay from UK this season is the $8 million that had been planned under his previous terms, and it is set to remain unchanged for 2020-21. But then it’s scheduled to increase to $8.5 million a year for three years and to $9 million for each of the final four years. If Kentucky were to fire Calipari without cause this April, he would be owed more than $60 million, subject to his duty to mitigate by finding subsequent employment.
No. 2: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: $7,256,924 -- Because Duke is a private school, Krzyzewski’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. Duke’s return stated that $1,267,962 of Krzyzewski’s total had been reported as deferred compensation on prior years’ returns, but it provided no further details about when that money was accrued.
No. 3: Mick Cronin, UCLA: $5,500,000 – Hired away from Cincinnati last April, Cronin is getting $3.5 million in basic annual pay this season – and he received a $2 million signing bonus. He made just less than $2.25 million from Cincinnati last season, and he owed that school $1 million for terminating his contract there. His pay from UCLA is scheduled to increase by $100,000 annually.
No. 4: Rick Barnes, Tennessee: $4,700,000 – After the 2017-18 season, Barnes got a new six-year contract that included a $1 million raise to $3.25 million. After last season, UCLA made him an offer, but the $5 million buyout he would have owed Tennessee helped keep him in Knoxville – that and another renegotiation with UT that added $1.45 million more to his total for this season. In addition, he is set to receive $250,000 increases annually.
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No. 5: Chris Beard, Texas Tech: $4,443,000 – Beard is a long, long way from where he was for the 2015-16 season: coaching Arkansas-Little Rock and making $260,000. Two seasons ago, he led Texas Tech to it first NCAA tournament Elite Eight; he was rewarded with a new contract that included a $1.3 million raise to $2.8 million. Last season, the Red Raiders advanced to the NCAA title game, and Beard got another new deal that included a $1.4 million raise. He also reported nearly $250,000 in outside income.
No. 6: Jay Wright, Villanova: $4,410,304 -- Because Villanova is a private school, Wright’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. The school reported that $4.25 million was from base compensation. For the 2016 calendar year, the school reported Wright’s base compensation at a little more than $3.5 million. For 2015, it was reported at just over $2.5 million.
No. 7: Tom Izzo, Michigan State: $4,191,070 – Izzo signed a new contract in April 2019 that isn’t changing his pay much now, but is set to have a major impact in two years. The deal added a $4 million, one-time payment “in recognition of his long service to the University” that will become due if he is the Spartans’ head coach through April 30, 2022. He has been in the job since 1995-96. If he retires before the trigger date, he’d get an pro-rated amount based on his service time from May 1, 2018 through the retirement date. Whenever he retires, he is set to be offered a five-year contract to work in Michigan State’s athletics department at $250,000 a year.
No. 8: Roy Williams, North Carolina: $4,102,409 – Williams is receiving previously scheduled increases in his pay from the university and from his personal contracts with UNC’s multimedia and marketing rights partner Learfield and from Nike. The increases total just under $175,000.
No. 9: Chris Mack, Louisville: $4,067,494 – Mack’s pay from the university is unchanged from last season. His first report of outside income while at Louisville shows $60,000. He is scheduled to get a $250,000 increase on April 1, 2021, but he will get the increase this April if the Cardinals advance to the NCAA tournament round of 16. During the 2017 calendar year – his final full year at Xavier – Mack made nearly $2.25 million, including bonuses, according to the private school’s most recently available tax records.
No. 10: Bill Self, Kansas: $3,985,857 -- Self’s compensation from the university is unchanged from last season. His most recent self-reported outside income amount -- $104,000 – was his lowest in at least 10 years. His previous low was $175,000 in 2016-17. Under one of two retention-pay agreements he has with Kansas, he is being credited with $1.5 million each March 31 from 2019 through 2022. But the money does not vest or become payable unless he remains coach on March 31, 2022, or his employment ends before then.
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Bob Huggins, West Virginia: $3,965,000 -- Huggins’ contract is set for him to coach through the 2021-22 season, then move into five years of paid emeritus status. His basic pay from the school is scheduled to increase by $100,000 each year. His deal also calls for WVU’s athletics department to make a $25,000 donation to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment, in the coach’s honor, anytime WVU wins a regular season game against Kansas.
No. 12: Buzz Williams, Texas A&M: $3,843,182 -- After five seasons at Virginia Tech, including an appearance in the NCAA tournament round of 16 last season, Williams departed for College Station and a six-year contract that gave him an immediate $800,000 pay increase. He is scheduled to get further raises of $100,000 annually. In addition, the maximum amount of bonus money he could get in a season went from $290,000 at Virginia Tech to $850,000. Also part of his new deal is private aircraft time for personal use.
No. 13: Bruce Pearl, Auburn: $3,840,366 – Auburn advanced to the Final Four for the first time last season, and Pearl was rewarded with a new five-year contract that included a $1.2 million pay increase. His compensation is set to rise by $125,000 annually, and the school is paying the annual premium on a $3 million term life insurance policy. Among his perks are four tickets to each football bowl game in which Auburn plays.
No. 14: Larry Krystkowiak, Utah: $3,762,876 – In terms of recurring annual pay, Krystkowiak remains the highest-paid men’s basketball coach at a Pac-12 Conference public school. But after leading by almost $800,000 over Oregon’s Dana Altman last season, he’s now about $250,000 ahead of UCLA’s newly hired Mick Cronin, whose basic annual pay this season is $3.5 million. According to Krystkowiak’s contract, $15,000 of his pay each year is designated as being “for his use on a vacation for him and his family.”
No. 15: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: $3,600,000 – Working under a seven-year, rolling contract, Marshall’s $3.5 million in annual pay from the school is not scheduled to increase until after 2021-22 season. If the school wants to fire him without cause, it would owe him a $15 million buyout. According to information provided by the school, his $183,000 in bonuses for the 2018-19 season included $50,000 from the consideration that the school received when it switched apparel providers from Nike to Under Armour.
No. 16: Jamie Dixon, TCU: $3,423,401 -- Because TCU is a private school, Dixon’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. TCU hired Dixon in March 2016, so this is first time the school has reported his compensation for a full year.
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No. 17: Scott Drew, Baylor: $3,308,435 - Because Baylor is a private school, Drew’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. The return also said he received just over $5,000 in apparel from Nike. The amount reported as base compensation was just under $3 million and represented an increase of about $200,000 over the base amount reported for 2016.
No. 18: Tony Bennett, Virginia: $3,307,500 – The Cavaliers won their first NCAA championship last season and Bennett received a two-year contract extension. So, how is he making less this season than he did last season, when he made $4.15 million, not including $1.25 million in incentive bonuses? Last year, he qualified for a $1 million retention payment, and, according to the school’s announcement of his new agreement, he turned down a pay raise larger than the 5% annual increase he is guaranteed. If he remains at U-Va., he would get retention payments of $400,000 in 2021; $1 million in 2023 and $400,000 in 2025.
No. 19 : Shaka Smart, Texas: $3,300,989 – Smart’s pay is scheduled to increase by $100,000 each year under a deal that is set to run through April 5, 2023 and carries a buyout that will be $10.5 million on April 1. Since going 11-7 in Big 12 play in Smart’s first season in Austin (2015-16), the Longhorns are 29-43 in conference regular season games and have not finished above .500 in conference play for a season.
No. 20 (tie): Lon Kruger, Oklahoma: $3,300,000 – After last season, Kruger’s agreement was extended by one year for the third time in the past four years. He’s under contract through June 30, 2023. But his basic annual financial terms were unchanged. He got the $100,000 annual pay increase called for under his previous deal, and he is scheduled to continue getting $100,000 increases each year. The buyout he would be owed if OU chose to go in another direction is among the lowest for a coach at a Power Five public school: $2.925 million as of April 1.
No. 20 (tie): Archie Miller, Indiana: $3,300,000 – Miller is completing the third year of a seven-year contract that is set to include a $50,000 increase every year. In an amendment to the deal after last season, IU agreed to allocate $100,000 for an annual supplemental compensation pool for Miller’s assistants. Miller can get a bonus of $125,000 each year based on the team’s NCAA Academic Progress Rate. That is one of the more lucrative academically based bonuses for a Power Five public-school men’s basketball head coach – and he’s achieved it in each of his first two years with the Hoosiers.
No. 22: Sean Miller, Arizona: $3,247,534 – Miller’s basic compensation for this season is $2.8 million. But in case his employment is terminated without cause or because of disability, he has become entitled to 29,267 units of a publicly traded limited partnership held by the University of Arizona Foundation on behalf of the university’s athletics department. Absent Miller’s termination for either of those reasons, the cash value of the units won’t become payable unless he is Arizona’s coach on May 31, 2022. As of March 9, 2020, the units were worth $447,534.
No. 23: Tom Crean, Georgia: $3,200,000 – Crean’s compensation is unchanged from last season, which was his first at Georgia – and it is scheduled to remain unchanged throughout a deal that is set to run through April 30, 2024. While he has not yet had great success on the court, Georgia has had two of its top five average home attendance figures for a season with Crean on the sideline.
No. 24: Mark Few, Gonzaga: $3,191,368 -- Because Gonzaga is a private school, Few’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. More than half of Few’s total -- $1,562,275 --- was reported as bonus pay. Gonzaga was an NCAA tournament finalist in 2017. The return stated only that Few, like 10 other school employees, received “non-fixed” amounts at the discretion of the president or board of trustees and “based upon accomplishment of key departmental objectives.” A school spokesman declined to elaborate.
No. 25: Dana Altman, Oregon: $3,100,000 – Altman received a three-year contract extension after last season that added $100,000 to the $200,000 increase he already had been scheduled to get for this season. He’s now set for a raise of $225,000 next season and then increases of $300,000 and $250,000 in the following two seasons. His perks continue to include, upon presentation of proper receipts, up to $25,000 a year to reimburse him for travel expenses by him to visit friends or relatives, travel expenses by him to have relatives or friends visit, or travel expenses by him to have friends or relatives attend Oregon athletic events.
No. 26: Chris Holtmann, Ohio State: $3,082,663 – Last season, Holtmann led the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament round of 32 for the second time in as many seasons at the school. He received a 3% merit increase to his base salary after last season, bringing it to nearly $581,000. The remainder of his annual compensation package remained unchanged.
No. 27: Frank Martin, South Carolina, $3,050,000 – Martin’s compensation moved above $3 million this season due to the latest annual $100,000 increase he is getting under a deal that is set to run through March 31, 2023. If the Gamecocks play in the NCAA tournament this year, in 2021 or in 2022, another $50,000 would be added to the increase for the following season.
No. 28: Matt Painter, Purdue, $3,025,000 – Under an amendment in 2018, Painter’s contract became a five-year, rolling deal as of July 1, 2019. But the amount of his compensation for the 2022-23 season and beyond was left to be determined. The contract states that “from time to time as agreed by the Parties, and in any event not later than June 1, 2022, Purdue will invite the Coach to engage in negotiations” to determine future pay. After such an invitation is made, the parties are to “negotiate in good faith for a period of up to 60 days to reach agreement” on the matter.
No. 29: Mark Turgeon, Maryland: $3,015,508 – Turgeon’s original contract was scheduled to run from May 2011 through May 2019. It was never amended, although replaced in July 2016 by an agreement that is set to expire in May 2023 and also never has been amended. But both deals included guarantees of annual raises that, over the past six years, have ended up moving Turgeon’s annual pay from just over $2 million to just over $3 million.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: NCAA knows it must hold a men's basketball tournament come COVID-19 hell or high water
Top nine early-season college basketball games to watch in 2020-21 .
The college basketball season is underway, and the season's early slate features many must-watch games. Here is what you can't miss.While the major power conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC — have all announced their league schedules for the upcoming season, the season's early intrigue will start with a long list of non-conference duels. A majority of these games have been moved to alternative locations to adhere to COVID-19 precautions.