Philadelphia – One of the most beloved aspects of the NCAA St. Peter’s tournament is the relative size of the school’s athletic budget compared to the schools that discontinued it.
St. Peter outperformed second-seeded Kentucky, sixth at Murray State and third in Purdue, which is great considering St. Peter spent $130 million less on athletics than Kentucky last year. Peter’s athletics director, said the school’s basketball operating budget, which does not include coaching salaries, is less than $250,000, the lowest figure so far for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
When 15 St. Peter plays No. 8 in North Carolina for a shot at the Final Four on Sunday, there is a tantalizing question looming for MAAC and Saint Peter’s team going forward. How do they divide the spoils of the magical path of St. Peter?
The financial math for the NCAA tournaments doesn’t make sense, but it’s safe to estimate that Saint Peter’s three championship victories would mean a windfall of at least $6 million in additional money from the three additional NCAA units. These funds are distributed to the MAAC over the next six years, and the association has autonomy as to how the funds are distributed.
“I would like to see how it is distributed among the MAAC members, I would like to see more of St Peter,” Paul said. “We’re the ones doing this quite frankly.”
Paul added that St. Peter’s achievement and the accompanying financial rise were “unprecedented”. Rich Ensor, MAAC commissioner who is a St Peters graduate, acknowledges this but said it’s unlikely there will be windfalls in St Peter’s way.
Ensor said the final decision on how to equitably compensate St Peter is something he will have to “take up with an administrative board,” which is made up of the MAAC chairs. Ensor said there is already a distribution system in place that allows a “modest” portion of the money to be awarded to teams that have won the tournament. It is expected that the remainder of the excess money will be allocated to improving basketball in the league.
“I don’t expect there to be a grand prize,” he said of St. Peter. “[The presidents] It could go in a different direction. It’s really not my call. They tend to reinvest.”
Different journals deal with the distribution of unit funds in different ways. It is not uncommon for the league to distribute weight to the teams that win the most matches.
For a league like MAAC, which lacks revenue from major football conferences, such a run is transformative. The MAAC team has not received more than one unit in the NCAA Championship since 2009.
The MAAC, like all NCAA tournament auto-bid conferences, guarantees one unit each year. This year, those units are worth $338,210.96, according to the NCAA. These units are paid over a six-year period and, according to the NCAA, fluctuate with broadcasting rights. This means that each unit is worth at least $338,210.96 over six years, or $2,029,265. For MAAC, this means that this run is worth more than $8.1 million, $2 million of which is already secured. How can a greater part of that St. Peter’s money help the notorious cash-strapped program?
“Oh my God,” said Paul. “It could change our entire program. It could help with recruitment, it could help with scholarships, it could help with facility upgrades. There are a million things we could use that money for.”
St Peter coach Shaheen Holloway earns approximately $266,000 annually, according to the latest tax documents available. (The prospect of him leaving for Seton Hall, a matter of his university, looms in part because they can pay nearly ten times what St. Peter does.)
Saint Peter’s basketball staff has four members who don’t quite get paid, according to Paul. And even St. Peter’s as a university has a smaller grant ($37 million) than the total amount of Kentucky coach John Calipari’s contract ($86 million). Ball said that basketball’s modest operating budget doesn’t even include things like paying officials, since fundraising is required for things for which a lot of money is set aside.
“I would say we have ways of getting to a point where we feel comfortable not dealing with numbers on every road trip and every hotel,” she said. “I’d probably make it sound more dangerous than it is. But we’re very familiar with what we’re spending money on. It just goes away.”
Peter’s race is over, there will be plenty of eyes on campus on how he will be financially rewarded for his efforts.