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Air Force athletics benefits from improbable NCAA Tournament run by Mountain West rival

March 21, 2018 Updated: March 22, 2018 at 9:07 am
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photo - Nevada head coach Eric Musselman celebrates as his team defeated Cincinnati during a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, March 18, 2018. Nevada defeated Cincinnati 75-73. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman celebrates as his team defeated Cincinnati during a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, March 18, 2018. Nevada defeated Cincinnati 75-73. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) 

Nevada’s improbable run through the NCAA Tournament will pad Air Force’s athletic department bank account for the next six years.

The seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 down to beat Texas in the first round, then erased a 22-point deficit with a little more than 11 minutes remaining to beat No. 2 Cincinnati and advance to the Sweet 16.

“How about the Mountain West Conference!!! Congrats Nevada!!!!,” Air Force men's coach Dave Pilipovich tweeted after the comeback against Cincinnati that was the second-largest in tournament history.

All Falcons fans should share that enthusiasm and ought to be pulling for the Wolf Pack to continue their run Thursday against 11-seed Loyola-Chicago.

Here’s why.

The Mountain West will distribute $273,000 for each game played by one of its teams. San Diego State earned the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament and was knocked out by Houston in the first round. The academy, as one of 11 Mountain West institutions dividing the $273K equally, banked $24,818 for the Aztecs' appearance (the teams appearing also receive a bonus). But the payouts continue for six years, adding between 2-3 percent each year. So the total payout over six years comes to approximately $150,000 for Air Force.

That’s the minimum the Falcons can expect if the league places only one team in the NCAA Tournament. But Nevada changed that equation this year as an at-large selection and added an additional $150,000 simply by being picked. By winning twice, the Wolf Pack have brought an additional three games for the Mountain West for an additional $300,000.

At this point, Air Force will receive approximately $600,000 over the next six years from payout from this year’s tournament.

“The value begins to increase once you get beyond the first weekend,” said a Mountain West spokesman, who did not immediately have the payout figures for games this weekend.

If Air Force fans haven’t yet warmed to Nevada's Martin twins, or to Eric Musselman’s shirtless celebrations or even to Musselman’s scene-stealing 8-year-old daughter, Mariah, who is becoming one of the stars of the tournament; perhaps they should. There are six figures worth of reasons to climb aboard that bandwagon.

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