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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
How much could Izzo cost MSU?

By Eamonn Brennan

There's a reason Tom Izzo makes $3 million per year, one of the highest salaries in college hoops: He makes money for Michigan State. That simple.

Less simple is quantifying just how much money Izzo generates for the school. If Izzo does indeed leave for Cleveland -- there has been a noticeable silence on that front so far this week -- how much athletic department revenue does he take with him? Crain's Detroit attempted to answer that question Monday. The result? No one's quite sure:

Izzo’s ability to get the Spartans far into the postseason — he led them to a national championship in 2000 and six Final Four appearances since then — has been a money-maker for the university, said Eric Wright, vice president of research and product development for Ann Arbor-based Joyce Julius & Associates Inc., which specializes in measuring sponsorship scope across all forms of media.

“Our research has documented the media impact made by teams qualifying for, and playing in, the NCAA tournament to be very significant (it has literally put some smaller school on the national sports map),” Wright said. “Obviously playing deep into the tournament and Final Four appearances generate actual revenue for the schools.”

“I think it is impossible to put a number on the impact of Izzo leaving, as likely the program will remain strong (at least in the short term),” Wright said.

OK, so that's not much help.

However, Crain's does list some of the pertinent Michigan State hoops figures. The Spartans men's basketball program generates about $11 million of the school's annual $61 million in revenue, and a decent portion of that revenue comes from Michigan State's national profile and frequent NCAA tournament success.

The answer, then, depends on whether Michigan State hired a replacement that kept the program running at the high level it currently does. If Izzo's theoretical replacement went on recruiting and winning, the Spartans would go on making a healthy chunk of change from men's basketball. But if the program falls off, and fans stop showing up to the Breslin Center (unlikely, but you never know), and sponsors stop, um, sponsoring, well, it doesn't take a Harvard MBA to figure out what happens next.

The best financial option for the Spartans? Keep Izzo around. Anything else is a roll of the dice. But you probably knew that already.