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Wichita State Final Four trip’s value goes beyond bottom line

  • Published Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at 8:33 a.m.

Wichita State isn’t going to decline invitations to the NCAA Tournament because of red ink.

A recent blog post at Forbes.com is headlined: “Shocking: How Wichita State Lost Money With Trip To Final Four.” The article details that expenses from last season’s run to the Final Four ultimately cost WSU money. Expenses grew 16 percent to $5.4 million, according to the numbers used in the blog from the U.S. Department of Education’s website, because of travel and performance bonuses.

While those figures are accurate, WSU officials regard the information as incomplete. While WSU went about $500,000 over its men’s basketball budget, the athletic department doesn’t view last March and April as a money pit.

“The article was correct,” said Rege Klitzke, WSU associate athletic director for business operations. “We have to look at it more in a long-term view. The benefits of the Final Four are going to pay off over a long picture of time.”

Klitzke also said WSU learned that how it fills out the Department of Education’s reporting form can change the perception. WSU has entered NCAA reimbursements for traveling parties as a lump sum, not by specific sport. The NCAA pays for pep bands, cheerleaders and a limited number of people in a traveling party with the team. When the MVC hands out its share of NCAA Tournament money, participating teams receive a larger amount to help cover expenses.

“In the future, we will probably start breaking out travel expenses into specific sport,” he said. “Had we done it that way, it would have reduced the men's loss by about $200,000.”

Playing in the NCAA Tournament is expensive. Travel parties for the cross-country flights grow as the wins mount. WSU coach Gregg Marshall earned $100,000 for advancing to the Final Four and $60,000 for the Sweet 16, in addition to $36,000 for each NCAA game played.

Those expenses are not unique to WSU.

“If you look at money the NCAA reimburses you, vs. what your actual expenses are, every team in the tournament lost a little money unless you only took one manager and four coaches, the absolute minimum,” senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright said. “Then you better stay somewhere that has a free breakfast.”

Boatright said the blog post created confusion that the Final Four cost the athletic department big money. He believes donations, sponsorships, licensing and merchandise sales will benefit the program and the university in a package that far outweighs the operating loss.

“To say that the Final Four cost us millions is ludicrous,” he said. “When we lost in Atlanta that Saturday night, we didn’t stop making profit. We hope that we gave some exposure to our institution that may have helped it.”

The best of a bad situation — With under three minutes remaining in Wednesday’s game at Indiana State, the Sycamores called up a stretch of fierce defense and cut WSU’s lead to 58-55.

WSU’s chance to answer ended with guard Fred VanVleet swarmed over near the foul line as the shot clock ticked away. He held the ball as the crowd roared, giving Indiana State possession with 2:47 to play.

VanVleet said he knew what he was doing. Instead of a risky pass or a difficult shot, he took what he considered to be the safe option.

“I let the buzzer go off, so they couldn’t get a chance to run,” he said. “That was better than throwing up a crazy shot or starting the fast break for them.”

Indiana State took the ball out of bounds and had to work against WSU’s defense, organized and composed, instead of getting a numbers advantage after a steal or a long rebound. Darius Carter blocked a shot by Indiana State’s Justin Gant and the Shockers survived that exchange with no damage.

Thursday alert — This is the busiest Sunday of the season for MVC men’s basketball teams with three games. The bracket for the MVC Tournament is gradually coming into picture and Sunday’s game may play a large role in determining the bottom of the standings.

At the halfway point, the MVC was a jumble after the top two spots with seven teams within one game of each other. Two games later, Drake, Evansville and Loyola dropped two games to fall to the bottom. All three play Sunday and are running out of time if they want to escape the sad distinction of playing in the tournament’s play-in games in a down season for the Valley.

All three are 3-8, two games behind the rest of the pack. A 3-8 team that can win Sunday maintains hope it can finish strong while pulling another team down. A 3-9 team is in a bad situation with six conference games remaining.

Drake plays at second-place Indiana State. Evansville plays at Bradley and Illinois State is at Loyola.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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