Why College Referees Hate March Madness’s Canceling More Than We Do

College basketball players are missing out on an opportunity to shine on the big stage after this year’s March Madness was officially canceled by the NCAA. While the players might not make money, others were banking on having a little bit more in their pockets thanks to all of the tournament games being played throughout the nation. The NCAA college basketball referees are among these, and the canceling of the tournament highlights what kind of income these men and women are looking at. 

The plight of the college official 

Being a professional or college athlete is a hard job requiring years of dedication, little to no pay, and lots of uncertainty. Similar things can be said about referees across several sports, but it is especially true for college officials. While some might think that the referees are salaried workers who are given money based on a year of work, they are paid on a per-game basis. 

Some might wonder why anyone would want to be a referee. After all, the referee will get the blame after nearly every close loss across every sport. They are yelled at by players, berated by coaches, and ridiculed by fans and owners. Because of this, it is not a job for those who are not willing to put in the work and adjust to an unforgiving world. 

They travel across the country to call games and do not always get compensated for their personal expenses. When the season starts, they might have to travel across the country and spend months away from their families to compensate for the times in the offseason when they can be home. 

How much do college basketball referees make during the season?

The officials’ pay, according to both paysa.com and Chad Buleen of Sapling, depends on the conference they officiate in and the number of games that they have. In bigger conferences, this can be a sweet gig, with some games earning officials about $2,000 per game. These are likely the officials who have put in the work, however, and earned their top rank in college basketball. 

In smaller conferences, officials are lucky to make $50,000 a year on 40-60 games. They do not get paid sick leave thanks to the nature of their work, so any injury or illness can cost them significant portions of their annual pay. The average salary of college officials is $58,829, while the top earners can earn north of $72,000.

When March Madness comes along, however, the referees who are selected can bank on getting a handsome bonus.

What do college basketball referees make during March Madness? 

Officials in the NCAA are given tiered pay, depending on how late into the tournament they are allowed to officiate. They earn $1,000 per game during the first rounds, $1,400 for the regional finals, and $2,000 for officiating in any Final Four games. This can be an ample opportunity to pad more pay at the end of the season.

Not only does this system reward the best referees in the game, but it also helps put them in a spotlight so that, as the players on the court, they might be able to secure a job at the next level, too. 

What do NCAA officials make compared to NBA officials?

If college basketball referees can impress the NBA, they could be in for a major pay raise if they make the jump over to professional basketball. The lowest-paid NBA officials make more than double that the highest-paid college officials make, and the highest-paid officials make $550,000. They can make anywhere from $600 per game to $3,500 and have far more certainty about their schedules. 

Being a referee is hard work, and unless you make it to the top levels, the pay might not always justify this. Love them or hate them, basketball games cannot go without the officials. Perhaps, knowing all they have to do and how much they make can put this into perspective next time fans are angry at officials.