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2010 March Salary Madness: Another Reason to Hate Duke


Here at PayScale, it's all about the Benjamins. So when we made our predictions for the 2010 NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament, we ranked the schools based on the earning power of each school's alumni.

With Stanford (and the whole PAC 10) having a bad basketball year, who will wear the Salary Madness crown this year?

Before settling in for basketball overload, take 10 minutes to find out if you are earning what you are worth with the PayScale Salary Calculator. Who knows – next year you could be earning enough to afford Final Four tickets.

NCAA Basketball: A Cross-section of America

Despite Puff Daddy’s (Sean Comb’s) perspective of sheltering “7 zeros” overseas, earning even 5 zeros a year is not easy. Only one school in the NCAA tournament this year has alumni with median pay over that mark.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

To rank the tournament schools based on alumni pay, we looked at working graduates with a median age around 35. The typical school in the tournament had alumni who earn about $67,000 in annual salary. Schools at the low end of alumni pay are:

  • East Tennessee State University (16 seed): $49,400
  • Murray State University (13 seed): $49,900
  • University of Montana –Missoula (14 seed): $51,000
  • Sam Houston State University (14 seed): $52,300

As you might expect, the Ivy League champion does well when ranked by salary. Having a Catholic connection also appears to be an advantage. The top 4 schools by alumni wages are:

  • Cornell University (12 seed): $93,300
  • Georgetown University (3 seed): $95,100
  • University of Notre Dame (6 seed): $97,000
  • Duke University (1 seed): $104,000

A fascinating aspect of the NCAA tournament is the diversity of schools. From highly selective universities that have graduated presidents (Clinton – Georgetown, Nixon – Duke Law) and captains of industry (CEO Bank of America – Notre Dame, CEO S.C. Johnson & Son – Cornell) to former normal schools (teacher colleges) that have grown into regional universities offering BAs through PhDs and MDs (East Tennessee State, Sam Houston State), March Madness has a broad range of schools represented.

Do High Earning Alumni Mean March Madness Success?

Of course, this diversity of missions leads to a wide range of alumni wages. What do those salaries have to say about basketball success?

Alumni earnings do correlate with higher seeds in the tournament. As the top and bottom earners above show, the schools with higher earning alumni tend to be seeded in the top half of the brackets, while the schools with lower earning alumni tend to be seeded in the bottom half.

For those who are mathematically minded, for each step up in seed, the schools’ alumni on average earn $1000 more. For example, the average of the 16 seeds is about ~$62,000, while the 1 seeds average ~$76,000 in alumni salaries.

Why do top seeded schools have higher earning alumni? Perhaps it is because big time college sports requires big money to pay million dollar coaches’ salaries. Having better heeled boosters can only help in hiring the best coaches and recruiting the best players.

The Final 4: Why It Is Easy to Hate Duke

The PayScale Salary Madness prediction for the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final 4 is Cornell, Duke, Georgetown and Vanderbilt (4 seed; $85,800). Notre Dame has the bad luck of being in the South bracket with Duke, so it gets bumped out in the regional finals.

Duke University wins the 2010 Salary Madness tournament, for the second year in a row.

I think I now understand why so many people hate Duke Basketball. It is a combination of 4 factors:

  • Duke has a perennially strong basketball program: as do the other three 1 seeds Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse
  • Duke University has great weather: you have to go down to 3 seeds New Mexico and Baylor to find warmer winters
  • Duke undergraduate education is highly ranked: US news ranked Duke at #10; the only other highly ranked schools with teams in the tournament are Cornell, Georgetown, and UC Berkeley
  • Duke alumni earn serious money: Out of ~600 schools PayScale ranked for bachelor’s alumni earnings, Duke was 12th. (Note: these figures change every year, so check the link for updated info.)

Thank goodness Duke has football. It is all that keeps the Duke students and alumni humble. 🙂

No matter what your degree and career, are you earning what you are worth?. For powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position or job offer, build a complete profile by completing PayScale’s Full Salary Survey.


Al Lee

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