View Full Version : Tournament expansion?: SportsBusiness Journal

12-08-2009, 08:37 AM
IMO, it ain't gonna happen.....


Field of nightmares

SportsBusiness Journal got our attention by reporting that one of the items under discussion as the NCAA considers opting out of the final three years of its CBS contract is the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.

It was like being told the world will end in December 2012.

None of us wants to hear this.

Unless you're coaching at a program landlocked near the bottom of a major conference, you recognize significant expansion of the NCAA Tournament is a horrible idea. I suspect the TV and NCAA executives fiddling with this concept will appreciate its folly, as well.

Merely adding "inventory" to the NCAA men's basketball championship will not make it a more valuable TV property. Such a drastic alteration would diminish the appeal of one of the most important events on the American sporting calendar.

If the field were expanded to 96, the appeal of NCAA Tournament pools would plummet. Most casual fans will not be interested in filling out a two-page bracket.

In past conversations with NCAA types, I've been led to believe if the tournament were expanded it would be to 68 teams—and we would have not one but four play-in games. I'm not wild about that, but it's passable.

A 96-team NCAA Tournament would be such a disaster that whatever TV network buys its rights should hire Roland Emmerich to direct.

12-08-2009, 11:49 AM
96 represents a ridiculous expansion. Look at it this way, it will extend March Madness well into April when everyone is thinking baseball. The tournament will bump into the NBA playoffs as well and further diminish the importance of doing well in conference play. It is an overall bad idea driven by money.
Look how the NBA drags on ad infinitum. Had Morrison not been a Laker, there's a remote chance in hll I would even remember who the NBA champ was. I would go the opposite way. Pare the tournament back to 64. The play in game, only to become a number 17 seed, is plain stupid, paying tribute to the political correctness mantra that "we are all winners." Well, if we are all winners why compete at all??? Just slice up the trophy into 65 or 66 pieces.
If the NCAA gods wanted to do something right, let them reschedule final fours on the West Coast.

12-08-2009, 12:15 PM
I have been told that if the NCAA tourney expands - which, again, will likely not occur - the NCAA would likely dump CBS and sign their new TV contract with ESPN. There are just too many scheduling obligations (the Masters, etc.) for CBS to cover a 96 team tournament.

12-08-2009, 12:32 PM
Isn't CBS paying an unreal amount of money for the rights to the tourney? With the state of the economy today, if the NCAA dumped CBS today, could they get someone else (ie ESPN/Disney) to match/exceed that amount?

12-08-2009, 12:49 PM
ESPN is the only entity that could possibly take it on financially. Also, the NCAA wouldn't want those games on some obscure channel. They are watched by more people than the NBA finals, the baseball playoffs, etc. ESPN can provide access. They have 4 channels they could put the games on: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPNU. I'm sure that would be part of their selling point. Either that or put games on one channel and then offer a Mega March Madness-style premium package for all cable and dish subscribers.

That all being said, I just don't see expansion happening. The only people who really support expansion are coaches on the hot seat.

12-08-2009, 12:58 PM
Wouldnt they also be able to put it on ABC as well? I figure that would be a big selling point in addition to the 4 ESPN channels.

12-08-2009, 01:03 PM
That's a good point. ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

12-08-2009, 01:09 PM
Here's an article that was just posted by Decourcy which thoroughly explains why expansion is a really, really bad idea


There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, there certainly is not enough room to include them all. These are but a few:

• The tournament would be too long. Much of the tournament's appeal is in the compact nature of the competition. Three weekends, that's it. If expanded for the sake of having more TV inventory, it would cheapen each game and make the entire enterprise less valuable, not more so.

• The season would be too long. Basketball is one of the few two-semester sports, an academic handicap for participants. Tournament expansion would mean starting the season the second week of November and ending the second week of April. Even with a month off before most bowl games, college football finishes in four months.

• The drama would be gone. If we're reaching down to whether middling mid-majors get in over failed big-conference teams -- who is going to care? The arguments now are about accomplished teams that have made key errors, such as Creighton going 26-7 but losing by 24 when a bid's at stake. That's where the passion originates.

At CollegeRPI.com, a website analyzing the selection and seeding process, traffic in the final week before Selection Sunday grows six-fold. People care because getting invited is an achievement.

• The bracket would be ruined. Going to 96 no longer would mean four balanced regions with everyone needing to win the same number of games to claim the championship. A set of 32 teams would receive byes.

• The office pool players would be gone. Somebody laughed when I brought up the importance of the bracket in a shorter discussion of this issue. Strange. Does someone really believe pools aren't a huge part of why the tournament is this popular?

• Conference tournaments would be damaged. That might be a plus to some, but the conference tournaments give everyone a chance to reach the NCAA field. And they make money -- earnings that likely would be diminished.

• There aren't another 31 deserving teams.

"I can't see any point to adding 31 teams to the field that have no realistic chance of winning," CollegeRPI.com analyst Jerry Palm said. "That's why we have the NIT."

Of the 31 highest-ranked RPI teams uninvited to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, none had a winning record against the top 50 teams.

12-08-2009, 01:20 PM
I've never understood why people want to expand the tournament. Inevitably good teams will get left out and relegated to the NIT, but the best teams always make the tournament. Unlike the BSC system, the selection committee must argue about the 33rd and 34th best at large teams to compete for a national championship, rather than choosing the top two. Even if we expanded the field, there will still be teams who feel they got left out. It won't change that problem. Rather, the debate will surround teams competing for that 96th spot, teams with mediocre records.

We don't want to argue about who is really the best team at the end of the year like they do in football. The format of the tournament allows those teams to prove it on the court. There comes a point, however, when we start comparing the 95th and 96th best teams that it becomes rediculous, esp. with the opportunity to get automatic bids through conference tournaments.