Here's how much referees are paid during March Madness


March Madness features the country's biggest and brightest stars in college basketball. The NCAA Tournament is a 68-team single-elimination tournament that will be played over the course of seven rounds until a champion is crowned. 

But while the stage will be set for countless riveting games filled with star athletes, they won't be the only ones hard at work on the floor. 

March Madness games will be filled with extreme intensity, which means that the officials for the upcoming games will need to be at their best. The referees' biggest responsibilities include staying in shape in order to keep up with these world-class athletes and regulating high-profile games across the country. 

But with great responsibility comes great reward, which means they must be compensated nicely, right? Here's a look at what a March Madness referee makes ahead of the upcoming NCAA Tournament:

How much do referees make during March Madness?

While some may think that referees are salaried workers who are given an annual salary, they are actually paid per game. 

“Officials in the NCAA are given tiered pay, depending on how late into the tournament they are allowed to officiate,” according to Sportscasting. The referees earn $1,000 per game during the first rounds of the tournament, then $1,400 for the regional finals and finally, $2,000 during any Final Four game. 

What do NCAA referees make compared to NBA referees?

The lowest-paid referee in the NBA makes more than double what the highest-paid referee in the NCAA makes.

Referees in the NBA are also paid based on a tier, according to Boardroom:

  • Entry-level referees’ compensation begins at $600 per game or roughly $250,000 per year.
  • Professional referees earn $3,500 per game or up to $550,000 annually. 
  • Additional compensation could also be included, should an official land a playoff game - they can earn between $800 and $5,000 per postseason game.

Why isn't Ted Valentine allowed to officiate at the 2023 NCAA Tournament?

Veteran college basketball official Ted Valentine, who has worked 10 Final Fours and four national championship games in his career, will not be allowed to officiate this year’s NCAA Tournament – for the second consecutive season.

Valentine was one of six other officials that were removed from the 2021 NCAA Tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 in the bubble.  

Valentine, John Higgins, Roger Ayers, John Gaffney, Kipp Kissinger and Ray Natili all went to Harry & Izzy’s steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis. Upon their return to the hotel, they took COVID-19 tests and one of the referees tested positive,” according to Stadium

Because all six of the referees ate together and were not wearing masks at the time, the Indiana Department of Health said they would be unable to work in the NCAA Tournament.

He will be eligible for the 2024 NCAA Tournament, provided he meets the NCAA officiating eligibility requirements.

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