The NCAA Frozen Four* begins on Thursday night in Washington, D.C., and as expected the media focus has been on the unlikely run of the tournament's Cinderella No. 16 seed, the Bemidji State Beavers. The New York Times wrote a lengthy feature on the team and the school; ditto the Washington Post, which added a ton of notebook information to its NHL blog about the small Minnesota college.
But every party needs a pooper; and for Bemidji State, CNBC's Darren Rovell is that pooper.
The sports business columnist doesn't believe the Beavers can rightfully be called a Cinderella team because of their budget for hockey. "In the NCAA men's basketball tournament, top seeds typically spend ten times more funding its teams than the lowest seeds. That's part of what makes an upset so great," he wrote.
Here is what each school spent on its men's ice hockey program, according to Equity in Athletics filings:
Bemidji State: $359,238
Miami of Ohio: $327,723
Boston University: $310,630
I'm rooting for the Beavers because it's still a great story, but because they are on the same financial playing field, or ice in this case, this isn't close to a team like George Mason making the Final Four.
Is that a fair point? In a sense, Rovell is making a classic "payroll equals success" argument that you'd hear in discussions about baseball. The counterargument could be one of prestige: How much easier is it for Boston University, Notre Dame or Cornell to recruit a hockey prospect than it is for the Bemidji State Beavers? Because that they have in budget, they don't necessarily have in personnel.
Still, an intriguing argument ... though one we imagine won't matter all that much to Beavers fans if their team completes its miracle run with a championship.
* The second half of Leahy's interview series for the Frozen Four ran into some complications. We'll have plenty of coverage from here in DC later this week.