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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga leads lucrative year for WCC hoops

March 28, 2017 Updated Tue., March 28, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.

The Zags try on their Final Four ball caps after winning the Western Region Championship, Sat., March 25, 2017, in San Jose. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
The Zags try on their Final Four ball caps after winning the Western Region Championship, Sat., March 25, 2017, in San Jose. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s run to the Final Four has made the West Coast Conference money. A lot of money. But nobody knows where it goes.

OK, some people know. But they aren’t telling. Because all ten members of the WCC are private institution, the conference does not need to disclose how it will divy up the seven units earned by Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. Each unit represents one NCAA Tournament game played prior to the Final Four.

According to WCC commissioner Lynn Holzman, each unit is worth approximately $1.6 million and will be paid out to the conference over six years. That means the 2017 NCAA Tournament will net the conference a little more than $11 million, which is a pretty sizable windfall for a mid-major conference made up of schools without football teams.

“It increases the revenues that are coming into the conference for the presidents to evaluate how the dollars are best invested and managed,” Holzman said. “That allows us to have strategic conversations.”

Many conferences, such as the Pac-12, equally split their revenues. The NCAA actually suggests to conferences that they do so.

If that’s what the WCC does, then the 2017 NCAA Tournament will be quite a six-year boon for smaller athletic departments such as those at Pacific and Portland. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has expressed disappointment with other WCC schools not investing in men’s basketball at the levels needed to create a competitive league. Maybe some of this money could rectify that.

Or maybe there is a different split. According to Bloomberg, between 1991 and 2015 Gonzaga accounted for 36 of the 76 units earned by WCC teams, meaning the Zags pulled in $34.33 million of the $57.83 million made by the conference.

So maybe the WCC is willing to give its primary benefactor a bigger slice of the college basketball pie to keep the Zags from eyeing a bigger conference where they won’t be the only breadwinners.

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