UMKC Pays To Play In Post-Season CBI Tournament

Mar 16, 2017

UMKC men's basketball team is playing in the College Basketball Invitational, the Kangaroos first postseason appearance, However, it cost the school $40,000 to participate.
Credit UMKC

This story has been updated to reflect some comments made by UMKC officials.

The 92-82 win Wednesday night by the UMKC men's basketball team over Green Bay was its first post-season appearance and victory in the 30 years the Kangaroos have played in Division I.

“It was the biggest night in our program’s history," says Tyler Koonce, a spokesman for the UMKC Athletics Department. "It was huge.”

But the victory in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) also came with a price tag that may surprise most fans.

Because unlike the NCAA and NIT tournaments, where schools often make money, privately owned CBI charges schools to participate. It's a pay-to-play post-season for the 'Roos and some of the other 15 teams in the tournament.

UMKC athletic officials say the school paid $40,000 to CBI, which is owned by the Gazelle Group based in Princeton, New Jersey, for the right to host a first-round game. According to its website, the Gazelle Group "creates, represents and consults across sports and entertainment events." A spokesman for the company says it doesn't comment on financial matters.

UMKC officials say they expect to make up the money in the long run, through a deal with the Gazelle Group that will pay UMKC to play in future tournaments the group sponsors. 

Other schools in the CBI this year, including the 'Roos second-round opponent Wyoming, confirm they also paid $40,000 to host first-round games. Teams like Wyoming that host second-round games will pay another $40,000 to CBI, bringing their two-game total to $80,000. 

For its game Wednesday, UMKC played at Swinney Recreational Center. (UMKC normally plays its home games at Municipal Auditorium, but it was booked for the NAIA national tournament.) The school gets to keep ticket sales and concession receipts. According to the athletic department, there were 1,128 fans in Swinney for the game. UMKC says it charged $15 a ticket but students got in for $10. That's about a $20,000 gate. 

"It was a revenue generating game," says Koonce.

In the last two rounds, no money is paid to CBI but the tournament keeps the ticket revenue. The home team is allowed to keep money for concessions and parking. The CBI pays part of the travel costs for the visiting teams, which UMKC will be Monday. 

Coastal Carolina University, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is like Wyoming hosting its second game of the CBI Monday. Matt Hogue, Coastal Carolina's Athletic Director, says the $80,000  is worth it, helping "keep the name and brand of the school fresh."

He says smaller tournaments like the CBI help mid-major schools get some exposure. 

"Unfortunately, there aren't massive TV deals like there are with the NCAA, so you have to ask host schools to step up and pitch in," Hogue says. 

The financial arrangements have changed over the nine-year history of the CBI.

"The last time we were in the CBI, the first round guarantee was $35,000 and the second round was $50,000,"  Tim Harkins, a spokesman for Wyoming, said in an email. 

Wyoming officials say playing in the CBI is good for their men's basketball program. 

"The CBI is a postseason opportunity for a young men's basketball team to gain additional competition and practice time," Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman said in a statement.

Likewise, Koonce of UMKC, says the chance to play in the postseason was a "big goal for our program and coach all season." 

In contrast to the CBI, the 68 teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament divvy up hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue earned while playing in March Madness. 

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster. You can follow him on Twitter @kcurkyle.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.