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Here's how much referees earn during March Madness

The NCAA closely guards details about how much referees are paid.

WASHINGTON — March Madness, the men's and women's NCAA college basketball tournament, kicks off this week. 

There will be 68 teams fighting for a chance to become the national champion in one of the year's most anticipated sporting events. From crafting the perfect bracket to wagering on your favorite team, the tournament has excited basketball fans since 1939. 

There will be 67 total games throughout the seven rounds, meaning players and referees will be hard at work. 

How much do basketball referees make during March Madness?

While the NCAA closely guards how much their referees earn, Sportscasting reports that officials are given a tier pay rather than a salary for March Madness. 

Rates change depending on how late into the tournament they are allowed to officiate, Sportscasting reports.

"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," according to Sportscasting. "This can be an ample opportunity to pad more pay at the end of the season."

In late 2021, the NCAA announced that basketball officials in the women's tournament would be paid the same as the referees in the men's tournament again.

From 2001-2012, the two tournaments paid the same, but as men’s referees started making more in conference games the NCAA had to increase the pay in the tournament to get the best officials, according to the Associated Press.

All NCAA referees are independent contractors, with no union representing their interests, and all have to cover their own travel expenses.

During the regular season, the busiest referees can work five or six games a week in different cities, running up and down the court for 40 minutes one night, getting a few hours of sleep, and then waking up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to their next destination.

According to the Associated Press, the most experienced Division I referees — for men’s or women’s games — are well paid. Some earn more than $150,000 in a season, officiating dozens of games across multiple conferences. Newer referees earn far less, supplementing income from another job.

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