$1 Billion at Stake for Perfect March Madness Bracket

by Emily Engle

The March Madness 2014 tournament opens this year on March 18, and any sports fan who correctly predicts the winner of all 63 games played could win $1 billion.  The March Madness tournament is held once a year to determine a national champion of all NCAA college basketball teams across the country.  Predicting each game outcome in this way is called “filling out a bracket,” and it is popular for the annual tournaments.

Typically, ESPN hosts a tournament challenge each year calling for entrants to correctly fill the bracket.  Over the past 16 years, it has received almost 30 million brackets; to date, not a single one was perfect.  The chances of filling a perfect bracket (depending on who you ask) could be as high as 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 or 1 in 9 quintillion.  Because a perfect bracket has yet to be found, this year, mortgage lender Quicken Loans and billionaire investor Warren Buffett have teamed up to offer $1 billion to anyone who does complete a perfect bracket, dubbing it the “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.”

The challenge opened for entries on March 3 and is open to anyone over the age of 18, with a limit of one entry per person; but space is limited, allowing only up to 15 million total entrants.  The prize is set to be offered in one of two options: either forty annual installments of $25 million or an immediate lump sum payment of $500 million.  If there are multiple perfect brackets, the prize will be shared.  Buffett has stated that during the tournament, in the event that an entrant still has a perfect bracket at the start of the final four games, he plans to make an “offer you can’t refuse.”  Also, the submitters of the top 20 most accurate “imperfect” brackets (in other words, the entrants of the 20 brackets that come the closest to perfect) will be awarded prizes of $100,000 each to put towards buying, remodeling, or refinancing a home.

This contest has already generated a lot of positive publicity for Quicken Loans and Warren Buffett because as part of the advertisement, they have committed $1 million to charities in Detroit and Cleveland to help youth education.

However, the challenge is far from perfect.  Critics of the “Bracket Challenge” quickly noticed that entry requires a large amount of personal information to be sacrificed: contestants must give their names, emails, birth dates, home addresses, and mortgage details.  It is also required that a Yahoo! account be made.  And in the event of a perfect bracket, the winner of the prize will still be responsible for hefty yearly taxes on winnings.

But despite this, Buffett has announced that he thinks “it will definitely add even more excitement to the college basketball tournament this year.”  The window for entries into the contest officially closes at 1 a.m. EDT on Thursday, March 20, 2014.  After the conclusion of the tournament, the challenge winner(s) will be determined on April 14, 2014.

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