The NCAA Basketball Tournament Selects Fan Favorites Over Parity

25 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2010

See all articles by Todd McFall

Todd McFall

Wake Forest University

Stephen G. Bronars

University of Texas at Austin

Date Written: October 15, 2010


The rights to the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament are the most valuable asset that the organization possesses. Revenues earned from the event account for about 80% of the organization’s operating budget. Despite the event’s unique nature, demand for its product has flagged. To address this problem, the NCAA has implemented tournament organization strategies that favor teams most familiar to fans, to the detriment of parity. First, in 2002, the NCAA basketball tournament implemented the "pod system" method of assigning teams their first round games. Compared to the previous system, the pod system allows the NCAA more geographic flexibility in determining where teams play first and second round games. Since the system’s inception, the top-seeded teams have enjoyed almost exclusively the benefits of geographically favorable opening round assignments. Evidence also suggests that the NCAA provides marginal seeding advantages to teams with recent tournament success, as these teams are likely to be more familiar to potential consumers. These strategies provide well-known, commercially appealing teams slight advantages in the early rounds of the tournament and, thus, make it easier for them to advance to the later rounds of the contest.

Suggested Citation

McFall, Todd and Bronars, Stephen G., The NCAA Basketball Tournament Selects Fan Favorites Over Parity (October 15, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Todd McFall (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University ( email )

2601 Wake Forest Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Stephen G. Bronars

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-475-8529 (Phone)
Not available (Fax)

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