Mega Millions and March Madness

OK. I guess at some point this morning I’ll have to get moving and put a few bucks down on the Mega Millions lottery. Hope there is no queue at the gas station. Although there might be, since it looks like Mega Millions fever — fueled by a jackpot north of $500 million — has people throughout the country taking notice.

Here’s from USA Today, “Record Mega Millions jackpot sets off ticket-buying frenzy“:

With a world record $540 million (and growing) jackpot at stake, much of the nation is gripped by Mega Millions fever.

From Vermont to Louisiana and New York to California, the jackpot has been the wistful talk of TV, social media sites, office water coolers and dreamy high rollers for the past week, electrifying ticket sales with a frenzy likely to amp up even further ahead of Friday night’s drawing at 11 p.m. ET.

The pot has grown more than $150 million since Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing failed to draw a top prize winner for the 18th consecutive time since late January.

“It’s uncharted territory,” says Buddy Roogow, director of the Washington D.C., lottery, which issued a commemorative “I Played The World’s Largest Jackpot” ticket this week. A typical Mega Millions drawing sells 250,000 tickets in the nation’s capital. “Friday, the real frenzy sets in,” says Roogow, who expects ticket sales of 1 million.

Social media users were buzzing about the jackpot on Facebook and Twitter, mostly about what they would do with the money, but also about the tiny possibility of winning the top prize.

The odds? About 1 in 176 million.

Wow. Talk about March Madness.

[Note to self: If I win, remember to delete anything favorable I ever wrote about the so-called Buffett Rule.]

Of course, the odds don’t appear to be in my favor of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. Better I was a college basketball coach. That appears to be where the money is these days.

As we move toward the NCAA finale, in some ways it’s comforting to see that the usual suspects of college sports factories are working their way toward the big prize. But the real winners appear to be coaches at even the smaller schools who are getting huge pay increases, if they offer even a hope of getting the school and alumni to the Big Dance.

Wonder what students think about all this as they pick up the tab? I digress.

Here’s from USA Today, “Even smaller schools must pay big for hot NCAA coaches“:

Shaka Smart, the charismatic men’s basketball coach of Virginia Commonwealth University, made news last week when he told the University of Illinois thanks, but no thanks — same as he told North Carolina State a year ago.

That upset the natural order of college sports. The grass isn’t always greener at major-conference schools, but the contracts almost always are. And Smart, 34, turned down more money to stay each time.

He was the hottest commodity in coaching a year ago when he piloted VCU‘s astonishing run to the Final Four. To keep him, VCU upped his guaranteed money from about $420,000 last season to about $1.2 million this season, a raise funded largely by an increase in student fees.

This season, his Rams reached the NCAA tournament’s round of 32, missing the Sweet 16 by an eyelash — and this time Smart got “a slight increase in compensation” plus more money in his recruiting and travel budgets, according to athletics director Norwood Teague.

VCU digging deep to thwart the get-Smart bids by Illinois and N.C. State is emblematic of a widening dollar gap between major-conference schools and so-called midmajors. Football TV contracts and attendance for the six power conferences of football’s Bowl Championship Series mean big money, while competitive ambitions at midmajors often outrun their athletics departments’ ability to pay for them.

“It’s a huge issue,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert, who calls rapidly rising coaching salaries “a challenge for the lower-resource schools.”

Athletics departments at such schools are largely subsidized by university funds and/or student fees. Big money for coaches there can translate to students paying higher bills and schools facing more stress on stretched academic budgets.

Some schools like VCU ante up so coaches don’t leave for wealthier programs. Others, like budget-strapped Nevada-Las Vegas, simply get outbid by them. And then there are the Cincinnatis of the world: lower-revenue programs in power conferences depending on institutional funds to help them keep coaches.

Indeed, college basketball’s marquee event is loaded with millionaires. Coaches in the NCAA tournament are making a little more than $1.4 million on average this season, according to USA TODAY’s annual analysis of contracts and other compensation documents. Among the 68 tournament coaches, USA TODAY was able to obtain pay figures for 62 — from Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is making nearly $5.4 million, to Mississippi Valley State coach Sean Woods, who is making $87,500.

The newspaper obtained 2010 and 2011 compensation information for 31 of the 34 schools appearing in the tournament both this season and last and found the average compensation for coaches at those schools increased to a little over $2.1 million from more than $1.9 million — a jump of 8.6%.

The changes in compensation range from a drop of 61% at Nevada-Las Vegas, which lost its coach to another school and hired a less expensive successor, to a 224% raise at Marquette, which paid its coach a one-time bonus of nearly $2 million. That puts the median raise at 12%.

Among public schools, the biggest raises went to Calipari, who also led Kentucky to the Final Four last year and received a contract restructuring that resulted in a $1.3 million increase; Purdue’s Matt Painter, who got an increase of more than $1 million after spurning an offer from Missouri; and Smart, whose income increased by $786,000 after he elected to stay at VCU.

With those kind of pay packages who needs to stand in a queue to buy a lottery ticket? You’ve already won!

Oh, well. As long as students and taxpayers have deep pockets, no blood, no foul. Right?

And by the way, if this turns out to be my last post, you’ll know that I came up big with the Mega Millions.

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4 responses to “Mega Millions and March Madness

  1. I’ve already decided after I win tonight that, except for 1 Mill, to put my kids thru school and a well deserved vacation, I’m donating the balance to Obama to keep the government running for an additional 90 minutes or so…….

    • Mark, Rest easy. Pretty sure there is a special tax of about 99.9 percent that the Obama administration applies to lottery winnings of conservatives in PA. At least that’s what I was told when I bought the winning ticket this morning.

  2. Well…I was pretty close…not so much a donation as a voluntary contribution-under penalty of fine and/or imprisionment. Either way I figured 1 mill out of 540 mill was all I would ever get to keep anyway. Actually, I get to keep a little more than you since PA state contribution is “only” 3.5 % while OH is 6 %…don’t worry, I’ll help you out!!!!

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