The multiple disciplines of the NCAA excite fans, enrich universities and generate billions of dollars each year. With athletes who are not allowed to touch a single cent.
Many know the acronyms NBA, NFL or NHL. Significantly fewer people know what NCAA means and stands for. This is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or, if you prefer, the Athletic Federation of American Universities. An organization that brings together more than 460,000 student-athletes at 1,280 universities or colleges across the United States.
The NCAA is responsible for coordination between member institutions and their conferences or leagues, managing the competition aspect and all matters relating to the rules of the game, officials, and match schedules. She is also responsible for the exploitation of commercial rights, be it TV, radio or digital rights and end-of-season championship revenues. Finally, it ensures the balance between sports and studies of athletes and their academic development.
The NCAA is a bit like any other professional league in the minds of sports fans in the United States. The content is rich, the seasons are frenzied, the TV audiences very strong. With the very big difference that it is unpaid students rather than professional millionaires who are the stars in the field. This is all the more paradoxical given that the income generated by the NCAA is enormous. In 2016, they amounted to $ 1 billion for the national association's own revenues, and $ 12 billion for college sport as a whole. According to a study published in 2016, 24 American universities have generated more than 100 million dollars in annual revenues from their various sports programs. It is a huge industry that influences the social, economic and media spheres of America, and captures the attention of Americans and professional leagues.
Football and basketball fund 20 other sports
The NCAA has 23 disciplines, but the vast majority of its income comes from two sports: American football and basketball. For example, the University of Texas has 50,000 students and its Faculty of Sports more than 20 disciplines, including the Longhorns, the famous football team, which is the most commercial in the country with annual revenues of more than $ 128 million.
In most universities, football and basketball fund other sports programs. In the United States, great importance is placed on diversity, equality and opportunity. Just because small disciplines like wrestling, lacrosse, women's swimming or soccer attract less audiences or generate a lot of commercial rights doesn't mean that equivalent scholarships will not be offered to these students. The system is therefore firmly in place to reinvest in sport and thus develop elite high-level athletes in all disciplines.
This makes American universities extremely attractive to young athletes. The NCAA model is very effective in keeping young people motivated by high performance sport but also diligent in studies. For many students from modest backgrounds, winning a scholarship thanks to their athletic talents is the only chance to "afford" university, which pays in the United States (between $ 25,000 and $ 60,000 per year).
A scholarship is worth $ 300,000
The best student-athletes playing in high schools in the United States, Canada and even now in Asia and Europe, aspire to succeed on both counts (academic and athletic) in order to receive one of these scholarships. They include tuition, accommodation, meals and sports equipment for four years of study leading to graduation. All of these benefits are worth approximately a total of $ 300,000. Each football team funds 85, each basketball team 13.
Thousands of student-athletes join the ranks of the NCAA annually. They find there academic institutions devoted and committed to their sports programs. Universities rely heavily on the prestige of their teams and invest millions of dollars in infrastructure and salaries to hire the best technical directors, the best coaches. All this by very aggressive recruitment in order to win. Regularly, scandals erupt around illicit gifts (sums of money or benefits in kind) offered to potential recruits.
These should only receive as "salary" the assurance of benefiting from perfect training conditions in contact with the best players and coaches, of being able to pursue their dream of one day joining the professional elite of the country, and if this does not happen. not walking, going out with a college degree.
But why is the United States crazy about college basketball?
Exit the NBA: in the spring, America is passionate about college basketball with the "March Madness". On Monday night, the University of North Carolina won against that of Gonzaga
In order to stand out again from his predecessor, Donald Trump has left his bracket open. And thus broke the tradition instituted by Barack Obama, quick to deliver every year in March his forecasts for the final table of the university basketball championship (NCAA). A grid of 68 teams, divided into four regions, dreaming of the High Mass of the Final Four which was held this weekend in Phoenix. Making a perfect copy is a pipe dream, but the former president is not up for grabs: he predicted the victory of North Carolina, the former college of Michael Jordan, who won the tournament on Monday night against Gonzaga. The sixth success in the history of the university, the first of the program since 2009.
Like Obama, some 40 million Americans get caught up in the game. Enough to generate, it is estimated, around $ 9 billion in bets and a loss of productivity of over 1 billion, as many employees are keep the eyes on the matches. The phenomenon has a name: March Madness. The madness of March. Seen from here, where university sport has not the slightest echo, it's hard to imagine that such a tournament could generate 1.2 billion in advertising revenue, or better than the NBA playoffs. Or that the last square is played in front of more than 70,000 people, in a US football stadium (that of the Arizona Cardinals). Entrance fee: between 300 and 5,000 dollars, pending the soaring black market.
This effervescence stems from a deeply rooted culture that makes alumni viscerally attached to their university and the teams that represent it. This is also where we track down the future stars of the NBA. In the meantime, these students, who are exempt from tuition fees, are already the stars of their campus. Killian Tillie can talk about it, he who is a VIP guest at every party. "We must recognize that being in the basketball team helps a lot with the girls. So you have to take advantage!", Laughs this Frenchman of 19 years and 2.07 m, best player of Euro U16 in 2014 He knows he's quite a lucky guy: first year with Gonzaga, first Final Four, first Final. A level never reached by this university in Washington State, where students sometimes camp in front of the hall to watch matches.
Son of Laurent Tillie, the coach of the Blues volleyball, Killian had already smelled this sweet madness by visiting his elders Kim and Kevin, passed through the NCAA in basketball and volleyball before becoming international. But he couldn't get over the resonance of the moment, like the crowd waiting for the Bulldogs to return from qualifying for the Final Four. "Everyone was crazy. And these last days, the teachers have left us a little alone with the homework. They rather talk to us about our matches!" On the field side, we tend towards professionalism. Staff fleshed out around a highly paid coach (Mark Few earns $ 1.63 million annually), weight training before class, three hours of training in the afternoon, private plane trips, high-end hotels. "And the room is open to us whenever we want, lights Tillie. One weekend when I had free time, I went for a shoot session at midnight."
Tillie in Noah's Footsteps
Before signing to Gonzaga, he had been called by Ronny Turiaf, former of the university, probably on commissioned service on that one. But on Sunday, the young man would have liked to walk in the footsteps of another compatriot. Those of Joakim Noah, the only Frenchman to have won the title, in 2006 and 2007 with Florida.