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What March Madness Cancellation Means for College Sports and Your Wallet

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March Madness has been cancelled in what has been one of many sports cancellations and suspensions caused by a coronavirus that knows no bounds. 

From assets to athletes, the global coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines for the last week. The stock market has been reeling as investors come to grips with the fact that the coronavirus is here to stay. As of midday Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have remained in a bear market

Advising investors, TheStreet's founder Jim Cramer wrote, "Remember, the virus is wicked smart. It seems to know our every weakness. It thrives on our slothfulness and our high-fiving desires. But when this thing's beaten, you will want to look back and say, when no one believed, I bought" in a recent column on Real Money

That "wicked smart" virus has also had a serious impact on the world of sports as cancellations and postponements of major sporting events abound. Arguably among the most heart breaking was Thursday's cancellation of the NCAA's March Madness, which Sports Illustrated's Brian Burnsed reports is the NCAA's biggest cash cow. 

Coronavirus Special Report for Sports Fans at Sports Illustrated

What does this mean for the NCAA? "While the NCAA has not yet made details of its shutdown public, it appears the outfit may have to fund its robust operations via that once-obscure insurance policy, and through its hundreds of millions of dollars of reserves, which have been gradually evaporating in recent years," Burnsed reported. 

As for the seniors set to play their last season, the devastation hits home. Sports Illustrated Pat Forde writes: "I’m sorry for every other NCAA championship-bound senior in every other winter and spring sport, all of whom had their college careers ended Thursday in a completely unimaginable way," Forde wrote. 

Watch the video above as SI's Host Robin Lundberg and TheStreet's breaking news reporter Tony Owusu broke down the sports and business impact.

Video Transcript

TheStreet's Jacob Sonenshine: Not only is the coronavirus keeping people around the globe at home, but now there will be far fewer sports games to enjoy while in those homes. Make sure, by the way, to check out sports illustrated, senior writer Pat forty's article discussing how heartbreaking the cancellation of March madness is for seniors. But not only is this a shame for sports fans, but the business of sports will be impacted in more ways than just lost ticket sales here to break down what this means for teams and players as hosts for sports illustrated, a little Robin Lunberg breaking down all things sports business is the streets breaking news reporter, breaking markets, news reporter Tony who Sue Robin Marchmadness is canceled. What does this mean for those poor seniors? 

Lundberg: Yeah, it's a tough blow for them, right? I mean it's a tough blow for us all as sports fans, but we have to understand the crisis we're facing and obviously sports come secondary to the public health, but you know, we do deal with our individual lives. So think about being a student or an athlete there who has been working towards something and then it just going away. So you've seen seniors try to make a case for another year of eligibility. There's a petition out there that that's gaining a lot of steam. And you know, when there are unprecedented circumstances, sometimes there can be unprecedented responses. So maybe some of these seniors, if they're willing, will be granted a extra year of eligibility in the future. That remains to be seen otherwise. You know, it's just a tough blow for people who have been working so hard for something and, and you know, they wouldn't make these cancellations unless it was absolutely necessary.

And I'm sure for the big picture, the NCAA tournament, not talking about, you know, the, the seniors who are playing other sports, but for the NCAA tournament, you know, they didn't want to cancel that because of the, the money that that brings in. I mean, it's a billion dollar industry in and of itself. Not only, you know, as you mentioned before, ticket sales, not only you know, the, the TV deals, but also the, the gambling industry. The amount of people that bet on the NCAA and March madness with their brackets. So, uh, you know, the, the brackets have been busted and you know, the dreams of some seniors have been busted at least for now.  

Sonenshine: So that was my next question. So seniors just don't get their last year of eligible eligibility. Why would that be the case?  

Lundberg: Well, I mean it's the, the process is a senior, right? I mean the, the school year doesn't change. The, the, you know, process doesn't change. That's what they're trying to appeal for and to say, Hey, this is different than what's happened before. We should get an extra year of eligibility. So I think that's up in the air. I think they'll get the public support. So perhaps that that could be a change. It would be a, a nice Goodwill for the NCAA, which doesn't always have that. But you know, I don't think anybody was prepared for this to happen obviously.  

Sonenshine: Got it. Tony, beyond ticket sales, walk us through the financial impact on teams, the universities, the NCAA players, media, any, any stakeholders here?  

Owusu: Well, Robin's absolutely right, how integrated sports is into our lives and not only into our lives and to the economy. Um, let's just start with the city of Atlanta, which is going to lose that on hosting the final four this year. That's an incalculable. How many million? How many millions? Maybe even billions that the city of Atlanta is going to lose just based off the bed. Next, we can go to the corporate sponsors you have at and T, capital one, Coca-Cola, all of the, all our gold plated sponsors of the NCAA tournament along with about 15 other name sponsors. So last year in 2019 tournament, the NCAA brought in $900 million just from sponsorships, ticket sales and corporate sponsorships. Next, you can go to the schools themselves. So with the NCAA tournament does is they break down the winning share winnings and to share it. So if you have a conference with more teams in the, in the tournament and they win more games than your conference gets a lot more of the share. The ACC last year, each school got one point $8 million from playing in 2019 tournament. So again, this is a wide ranging thing and it just shows really how integrate sports into our daily lives.  

Sonenshine: And Robin, real quick, what can we reasonably expect that of next season?

Lundberg: You know, I don't know. I don't think any of us know right now. If you look at the, the sports world, it's been put on pause. I think the NBA hopes to resume after 30 days or more. I think that the same thing would go through major league baseball, but college basketball doesn't really have that option given it's calendar year. So I, I think you could see just business as usual but next year with this year being erased from history if you will.

Sonenshine: And Tony and as, as you and I both know, our government cannot lose money. It needs to have cash at this time, given, given what's going on in the economy with the Coronavirus. But both of you, thank you so much. And anyone interested in sports, business and everything in between, stick with the street and sports illustrated.

Sports Illustrated and TheStreet are teaming up to bring you everything you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic from playbooks to portfolios.

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