The NCAA has its very own illustration of runaway inflation. It is known as the Final Four.

In the past 19 years, the money paid per team at the Final Four has increased from $49,576 in 1970 to an estimated $1,251,000 in 1989.There has been an increase every year, but it's been in the 1980s that the Final Four, with the influx of television interest (and revenue), has risen to megabuck heights. In 1979, for example, when the Final Four was in Salt Lake City, the four finalists made $235,103 each. Ten years later, the figure is slightly more than a million dollars higher.

That 1979 NCAA tournament had a total income of $7.9 million. The 1989 tournament anticipates a total income of $66.3 million. TV revenue in 1979 was $5.1 million. In 1989 it's $55.4 million.

With new TV contracts about to be negotiated, future revenues are expected to be higher yet.

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That Salt Lake City Final Four in 1979 remains one of the biggest TV bargains in the history of sports. The championship game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State team and Larry Bird's Indiana State team drew a 24 ratings share - still the highest-rated basketball game in television history.

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The women's Final Four is being conducted in the Tacoma Dome, just 30 miles from Seattle's Kingdome. But there's a world of difference in crowds and payoffs.

A less-than-capacity audience of 9,030 watched the women's semifinals Friday. And for getting to Tacoma, Auburn, Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Maryland received $35,000 each.

"I don't think this is right, us being here with the men," said Auburn Coach Joe Ciampi.

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By bringing Illinois to this Final Four, Lou Henson joins a select group of coaches who have managed to bring two teams to the Final Four.

Only eight others have done it, including Jack Gardner, who coached Utah to the Final Four in 1961 and 1966 and Kansas State in 1948 and 1951. The others are Forddy Anderson (Bradley and Michigan State), Gene Bartow (Memphis State and UCLA), Larry Brown (UCLA and Kansas), Hugh Durham (Florida State and Georgia), Frank McGuire (St. John's and North Carolina), Lute Olson (Iowa and Arizona) and Lee Rose (North Carolina-Charlotte and Purdue).

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According to a nationwide coaches' poll in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the most popular Final Four site is New Orleans, followed by Indianapolis. Seattleranked third.

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Brigham Young's Michael Smith has had a busy, and productive, Final Four weekend. The senior center-forward was the leading scorer for the triumphant West team in Thursday's NABC All-Star game in the Seattle Coliseum, with 25 points. And today, he'll be one of nine contestants in the long-distance 3-point contest, also in the Coliseum. The player to beat in that competition figures to be Colorado State's Joel Tribelhorn.

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Bobby Knight of Indiana was honored Friday by the Associated Press as the 1989 Coach of the Year.

Said Knight, "For me to get an award from the press, it really means a lot to me. Because I know there's no favoritism."

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Also from the Post-Intelligencer Coaches Poll: Pete Carril of Princeton is regarded as the most under-noticed great coach in America. Frank Kerns of Georgia Southern ranked second in the voting, followed by Boyd Grant of Colorado State.

The coaches voted Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins as the best recruiter in the country, followed by Lute Olson of Arizona and Jim Valvano of North Carolina State.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Sports columnist Art Thiel on Michigan's carefree attitude: "The only thing looser in Seattle are Boeing's cargo doors."