Alumni Salaries vs. NCAA Championships: Big Pay Predicts Exit

Continuing the theme of the last few posts, how well did university alumni salaries (pay of graduates with 5 to 15 years of experience) predict the "Sweet Sixteen" round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship?

Last week, I flipped the original bracket picks (schools with higher paid alumni win) and predicted Stanford University (3 seed, $113,000), UCLA (1 seed, $86,600) and University of Texas (2 seed, $83,400) would be next to leave the tournament, because they all have alumni who earn well above the tournament school average.

The good news is I was 2 for 3! The bad news is that the NCAA seeding committee was even better. They predicted only 2 would leave the tourney (the universities that are not 1 seeds), and the seeding committee was right 🙂

In this post, I’ll look at how well salary worked to predict the Sweet Sixteen weekend, and make a last guess at which university will win it all.

Are you overpaid and headed home like Stanford, or pulling down 1/2 as much and going to the Final Four like the University of Memphis ($59,100)? Find out with the PayScale salary survey.

College Graduate Pay = Basketball Success?

What about the other schools? Did the high or low salary school win? Here are the schools, NCAA Div 1 Men’s Basketball Championship seed, and alumni salaries for the Sweet Sixteen:

School Name Seed Typical Graduate Salary
North Carolina 1 $75,100
Washington St. 4 $66,100
Louisville 3 $59,100
Tennessee 2 $60,500
Memphis 1 $59,100
Michigan St. 5 $68,900
Stanford 3 $113,000
Texas 2 $83,400
Kansas 1 $67,000
Villanova 12 $80,500
Wisconsin 3 $73,400
Davidson 10 $80,000
UCLA 1 $86,600
Western Kentucky 12 $48,800
Xavier 3 $60,500
West Virginia 7 $63,400

For the 8 Sweet Sixteen games:

  • The school with higher paid alumni won 3 times: North Carolina, UCLA, and Davidson
  • The school with lower paid alumni won 5 times: Xavier, Texas, Kansas, Memphis, and Louisville
  • Louisville was really a toss-up with Tennessee, since typical alumni pay is so close

For the Elite Eight games:

  • The school with higher paid alumni won twice: UCLA and North Carolina
  • The school with lower paid alumni won twice: Kansas and Louisville

Does salary tell us anything about basketball success? It looks like no for individual games.

The variation in alumni salaries has compressed throughout the tournament. The school with the lowest alumni salaries in the Final Four, Memphis ($59,100), is about $12,000 higher than the lowest for the starting 65 schools (Mississippi State).

Similarly, the highest remaining school, UCLA ($86,600) has alumni earning nearly $17,000 less than the school with the highest paid alumni at the start of the tournament (Stanford).

Whether it is better to have “Wine and Cheese” alumni, like North Carolina and UCLA, or “Beer and BBQ” alumni, like Memphis and Kansas, in the NCAA Basketball Tournament remains to be seen.

Is your salary “Comte, AOC” or “Kraft American Singles”? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Al Lee