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March Madness: How Much it Costs to Follow Your Team in the NCAA Tournament

photo:Logo Resources

photo:Logo Resources

Warning-If you don’t follow NCAA basketball and March Madness, you might be better off reading about something like The A-Z of Saving Money!

Today is the start of NCAA March Madness. I have to admit, this year’s tournament is a bit melancholy for me. My beloved Kentucky Wildcats have fallen all the way from being 2012 NCAA champions to not making the tournament this year. One and done really sucks. What 19 year old needs to be playing in the NBA?  I digress. Another reason it sucks is for retailers, because Kentucky Wildcat fans travel in droves and spend all kinds of money. SEC tournament host cities always pray that Kentucky makes the final because the wildcat fans are crazy and will buy anything blue in sight. One of my goals someday is to follow my team through the tournament or at least attend a Final Four. How much would it cost to follow your team in the NCAA tournament?


NCAA website tickets for early rounds start at $50, but no true fan is going to sit in the nosebleeds. I would ball park at least $500 for tickets up to the Final Four. After that, all bets are off. You could get lucky and score a deal, but I would estimate $300-$500 for Final Four tickets.


Unless you are a college student who wants to road trip and sleep on couches, you could end up shelling out another $2000 or more in air fare, hotels, and food. There are so many variables depending on where you live, but I think this amount is reasonable.

Time Off Work

To see every game and travel, you’d have to take about a month off work. Most bosses might not be that understanding, which makes being financially independent all the more important if you want to be a fanatical basketball fan. If you have two weeks of paid vacation, and you take two weeks unpaid, let’s ballpark losing $2500 in wages.

Who Could Ever Afford to Follow the NCAA tournament?

It would take a very rich or very dedicated person to spend the $5000-$6000 it would cost to follow your team, but what an experience. If you grew up being a Kentucky Wildcat fan, there is nothing better. I’ve been to a few SEC tournaments and early round NCAA games, and being a part of the Big Blue Nation is truly priceless. It will be a while before I’m able to follow my team all the way, but someday I certainly hope to do so. Let’s hope when I do they actually make the tournament!

Some Fun Mascots from the 2013 NCAA Tournament

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers– Western is my alma matter, and I always pull for them unless they play against Kentucky. Big Red is their mascot. No one really knows what Big Red is, but he is a red version of the old Grimace character from McDonalds. He has gotten some fame over the last few years on ESPN.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits-Because nothing screams fear and intimidation more than a rabbit!

Oregon Ducks– I knew ducks were scary. They can peck your eyes right out, and ducks outfitted from Nike are super fast.

Harvard Crimson-Really, they let the smart boys in and kept Kentucky out? This isn’t the knowledge bowl. What even is a crimson?

You can tell I am pouting a bit, but I will watch as much March Madness as I can. I’ll be pulling for whoever plays Duke.

We don't get over stuff very well.

We don’t get over stuff very well.

Who are you pulling for in the NCAA tournament? Any non-Kentucky fans know who Laettner was?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. A few years ago, my brother planned his vasectomy around March Madness. He did it the friday before some of the games he really wanted to watch. That way he could just sit there all weekend and watch games without being bothered =)

  2. The high cost of attending as a member of the public is why we’ve vowed to attend any Final Four our team is in while we’re still in grad school. We didn’t go in 2010 and it’s the biggest regret of my life! There were all kinds of good reasons not to go that year but they seem insignificant now. Anyway, if we were to go this year it would only cost us a few hundred bucks, probably. Tickets for students are heavily subsidized (I think between $100 and $200 per game); Atlanta is close enough that we would drive and we have people to crash with probably. We went to an earlier-round set of games in 2009 in Boston and it was definitely worth it. Anyway this year is my husband’s last chance and next year is mine. We still might attend once we’re alums if the stars align, but I’m not sure our program will have a decent shot every year like they do now once our coach retires.

    And yes, of course I know about Laettner.

    • Oh the beauty of student tickets. That’s a great way to see games and I would take advantage as much as I could. Laettner actually was in attendance at a Kentucky game in Atlanta? maybe earlier in the season. They showed him on camera. He must be have nerves of steel or not think anyone would recognize him. Some drunk stupid fan would certainly take a swing if given the opportunity. That game is a dark spot in Kentucky history. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are teaching it in schools now!

  3. Haha yes I am well aware who Christian Laettner is, though I can’t remember why Kentucky fans hate him :/ Buick is doing a giveaway for the Final Four valued at a few thousand dollars. Just going to that alone is an expensive thing to participate in. I have gone to some of the games that were at the Dome here in Minneapolis over the years, though I generally sat in the nosebleeds. I am pumped for the Gophers being in it, though they are pretty dang inconsistent.

    • Laettner hit the last second shot that knocked Kentucky out of the regional final in 1992. KY had a bunch of no name scrappers that the whole state just loved and wanted to go all the way, and that just killed us. I never cared for his attitude either, but I could say that about many players who were rivals.

  4. Lol, it doesn’t cost me anything! I don’t do sports unless I can participate! I’m wonder if it’s safe to admit that to a North American Audience?

    • Not even a filling out a bracket? I love tournament time. I guess it takes your mind off other worries to concentrate your energy on a team.

  5. I always wonder how people spend so much money on something like sports. Seeing your favorite team once in a while, why not, like you would a music concert, but buying all the caps, t-shirts and other marketing items every season I don’t get it.

    • I honestly have quite a few T-shirts that say 2012 NCAA champs. I still have some from when Ky won the 1998 title. I am certainly not obsessive, but I can see how it could turn into that.

  6. I am certain that there are probably a substantial amount of retired, sports obsessed alumni who can and do follow their team though the NCAA. There are certainly plenty of people who follow college football teams around, usually by driving their RV all over the country.

  7. That is a hilarious tee shirt. I’d wear that in a second, even though nobody would call me a Kentucky fan. I feel for you, Kim, with your Wildcats not making it this year. I’ll be thinking about you when the MSU SPARTANS ARE IN THE FINAL FOUR!!!!! WHOOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Sorry. I really feel bad.

    • We just don’t have a ton of things to be proud of. Hillbillies, moonshine, and cornpone don’t quite make the list. Basketball is about all everyone can agree on and get behind. One of my good friends from optometry school went to Michigan State, so I’ve heard that before.

  8. Ah, yes, I do remember Laettner and I remember exactly where I was when I was watching that game. I grew up being a huge UNC fan, so that shot pained me, though I am certain no as much as it did for UK fans. I’ll be pulling for my Alma Mater…K-State. I would love to be able to make it to the Final Four some year, but I do not see it happening anytime soon.

    • I’ve put in for the lottery to get Final Four tickets. You have to do it right now for next year, but I’ve never gotten them. It would be pretty lucky to get cheap tickets and have your team make the Final Four. I guess you could always sell them. It could be an investment!

  9. Being a Minnesotan, yep, I know Christian Laettner even though I never followed basketball. He was a big shot around here at the time, although I didn’t know he played college at Kentucky. As far as the costs invloved with attendance, I bet a whole lot of people who shouldn’t be spending money on following them do spend the money. 🙂

  10. I live in Indianapolis so I can say from experience you can get great seats to the championship game for fairly cheap. You just wait for the losing fans to exit the arena and you buy their ticket that they no longer want. Of course this didn’t work so well the year Butler made it to the finals here, but overall my friends have scored some solid seats doing this.

    • We did that one year for the SEC tournament. I would hate to get there and not have a ticket though. My luck there would be none to find.

  11. Great breakdown of costs and great post! Still, excited for the season…

  12. My favorite time of year! Wow, it is amazing how fast the costs add up. The only time I have gone was when the early rounds came to Sacramento and I could drive to the games and not have to pay for hotel.

    KY was not all no-name scrappers, Mashburn was a stud and a good pro!

    • You’re right about Mashburn. He did go all the way. It’s like of like telling a story that keeps getting more and more outrageous. I’m sure you could find some old hillbillies who would say Kentucky didn’t even have shoes and had to walk to the game. I just remember Laettner kicking Deron Feldhaus when he was on the ground. The ref had his back turned, but the camera caught it.

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