Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why Expanding the NCAA Tournament is a Bad Idea

Chatter has picked up in recent months about the NCAA possibly expanding the Men's Basketball Championship from it's current configuration of 65 teams to as many as 96. Let that last number sink in....on second thought don't, the scene may be too erotic for some. Why 96? Why mess with something that is perfect(except for the Opening Round game)? Why is the NCAA even considering this? Well there are a few ideas that may sound good, but really aren't. Here are just a few examples:

Increasing access for smaller conference teams
After only 3 teams from outside the BCS 6 made it in last year(and 3 others just missed out), one has to be very nervous about the potentiality of ALL 34 at-large bids going to BCS 6 members(it is very possible for this to occur). Thus, the idea of increasing access. Now this idea may infact be worthwhile to some, after all expanding the field may increase the number of Mid-Major teams is what many outside of a few simple-minded nitwits who only follow the BCS 6 would want to see, but the truth is many of the newly minted spots would go to middling to poor teams from the BCS 6. Of course who would be pushing for all this would be coaches, which leads to:

Job Security
Many big name coaches(Jim Boeheim for example) have constantly complained for increased access, knowing full well it will look good on the resume. But look at the coaches that have had bad years and not been fired. Of course many of them occured in the era when you only made the NCAA if you won your conference. Speaking of conferences(and the teams that reside in them):

Division I Growth
Back in 1948, when the NCAA listed 160 of it's members as being part of the University Division, only 8 teams were chosen to play in the NCAA tournament(of course the NIT was also available and even the NAIA tournament had a few University Division members participate). As late as 1974, only 25 bids were available to 233 Division I teams. Today, there are 334 teams playing actual Division I hoops playing for 65 spots. That's 1 bid for every 5.2 teams. If it were to grow to 96, the ratio would drop to 3.6 for 344 teams. The Division I Board of Directors has at least recognized that Division I has grown too big in recent years and has proposed new requirements to limit(if not outright prevent) movement into the division. It's definitely an outgrowth of:

The American Way
It's a simple fact of our consumeristic society that we want more and we want it now. It's brought us numerous inventions and ideas that have whetted our appetites to the point where if were deprived of it for only a few minutes, we (figuratively) throw tantrums. This way of life has also produced or last element and it should come to no one's surprise that it's four little letters:

Having scored the rights to the BCS starting this fall, the worldwide leader is setting it's sights on the second most popular college property. The NCAA has at least aided and abetted ESPN by including in the current contract with CBS that the NCAA can opt out after this season. It is entirely possible however that the NCAA will do the decent thing and allow the contract to run it's course. But then ESPN has a ton of money to throw(thanks to the Walt Disney Company) and has shown no remorse for throwing it around. Heck, they may even steal the Olympics from NBC.

Now those ideas may work in the short term, but it may kill the goose and the egg, why?

It's the economy, stupid!
Even as we rebound from our most recent recession, money for sporting sponsorship will continue to be tight for at least a few years.

Remember when New Year's Day was the absolute end of the College Football season, well it's now gotten to a point when an outdoor hockey game(NHL Winter Classic) is considered by some, not all, as the most important event of the day. The BCS shoulders the blame here by taking important games out further into January and rendering them meaningless(Yes, I'll admit it, the Rose Bowl was meaningless this year). If the NCAA extends the tournament into April, you risk bumping into the Masters, the start of the baseball season, the NFL draft and at many schools, spring football.

No more perfect symmetry
Yes it would still be symmetrical, but 96 is not the same as 64(or 65 for that matter). After all, the bracket would have to be expanded on to 2 sheets of paper or more.

I'd stop doing bracketology
I mean the best part of doing this job would be to compare myself to others. But if you expand the field, how many would just give it up? I know I would and I suspect others would.

If you like the ideas, or hate them, just comment.

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