March Madness bracket pools spark excitement on campus

Student Senate President Sarah Schuh spent her Veterans’ Day weekend on the West Coast attending a conference that offered guidance she thinks will improve UW-Eau Claire. “I think the best thing I got out of it was the networking associated with the Oregon student leaders,” Schuh said of the Northwest Student Leadership Conference at Oregon State University.

Story by Mike Falk

The chances of picking a perfect March Madness bracket are pretty slim. And it can be hard to know where to start.

According to Augsburg College math professor Michael Weimerskirch, even flipping a coin to decide the winners will only give you 1-in-100 million trillion odds.

But that near impossibility doesn’t stop people from filling out those brackets come mid-March.

Junior Dustin Diedrich is one of those people. Diedrich has been organizing a bracket pool for March Madness every year since he came to UW-Eau Claire in 2010.

“I just really like the whole atmosphere of doing it,” Diedrich said. “I like having the brackets in my hands, keeping track, seeing all of the games, all of that stuff.”

According to, approximately 5.9 million brackets were filled out in their Tournament Challenge in 2011. On campus, there are many students who are excited for much smaller bracket pools.

In the past Diedrich has charged $2 to participate in his bracket pool, but because he hopes the winner this year will take home $90 to $100 he has increased his entry fee to $3.

“After only putting in $3, it’s quite the payout,” Diedrich said. “I had 54 participants last year. This year I’m hoping to get at least 60.”

Freshman Michael Roden is organizing another bracket pool on campus.

“Paid brackets is always a little funner,” Roden said. “There’s something more on the line. If you win, it’s obviously kind of exhilarating and a good adrenaline rush, so I prefer the paid (bracket pools).”

Roden said he is planning to charge $5 to participate in his bracket pool, with 60 percent of the winnings going to the first place winner, 30 percent to the second place winner and 10 percent to the third place winner.

For senior Troy Beyer, it’s the thrill of participating in a bracket pool that excites him, as well as “picking the underdog and getting it right.”

“I have been in a bracket pool for eight years,” Beyer said, “since my freshman year of high school.”

Whether it’s through ESPN or with a group of friends, filling out brackets is what makes late March an exciting time for many people. Diedrich said that even if you don’t watch basketball much during the season, this is the time that many people will sit back and enjoy the madness.

“Some people call it gambling,” Diedrich said, “but I just think it’s kind of fun. Put a couple bucks in, play against some friends, test both your luck and knowledge of the game, end up winning some money in the end. It’s a really great time of the year.”