If you've been living under a rock, paying attention to the NFL Annual Selection Meeting way too much, or just don't care for the past 24 hours, you've missed a huge sigh of relief from many in the sports world. The NCAA decided NOT to expand the Division I Men's Basketball Tournament to an ungodly 96 teams, but rather to 68, and it also signed a 14-year, 11 billion dollar agreement with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to carry it.
There are plenty of winners and losers in this deal, first the winners...
Back in the early 90's, Black Rock suffered a series of stinging losses and it looked possible that it could do so again starting with this event. But coming off ratings that were the highest in several years, it was able to gain leverage during negotiations that allowed it to continue to remain the primary partner until 2016, when it will begin alternating the Final Fourwith...
Lauded for it's presentation of NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the NBA and MLB, the TimeWarner division has been able to demonstrate that it produces high quality productions for the sports it carries. Now it gets a very high profile annual event it can effectively promote across many platforms and it helps lift the profile of TruTV, one of the new carriers alongside TNT and TBS, from that of a reoriented CourtTV into a channel of it's own.
Coaches...eh sort of
Much of the push for expansion came from a number of coaches, particularly from the likes of Jim Boeheim, who has always been an advocate of a larger field. The downside is that these coaches will be under even greater pressure to perform to ensure one of the new bids.
Advocates against a 96-team field
Many in the media were dreading a possible expansion to 96, but with the new deal in place, a lot have voiced their approval that it won't happen right away. In fact, if the new format proves successful, you'll might see public sentiment start to shift back to pursuring a 96-team option once again. But it's my belief that won't happen for awhile.
Had there been a 96-team field been implemented, this venerable tournament would have gone the way of dodo. As it is, future fields will still be weaker as those that would have been 35-37th on the at-large list will now move up to the "Senior prom". Nonetheless, Madison Square Garden will still be rocking in the days before the Final Four.
Why would I put the World Wide Monopolizer in the winners category, well it's for several reasons:
1) The money not spent on locking up the Final Four will now likely be used for pursing an even bigger event(The details of which I will spell out below momentarily);
2) It will still have far more games to air the regular season as well as it's popular Championship Week coverage; and
3) It still has the rights to the Women's Final Four and other NCAA tournaments(not to mention the BCS).
The losers in the aftermath are...
NBC Comcast and News Corporation
The immediate fallout of the new NCAA deal with CBS/Turner means that ESPN now has the cash on hand to make a serious run for future rights to the Olympic Games. Which means these companies(NBC Comcast in particular) will have to put up a lot more money to gain the lucrative U.S. rights.
Say goodbye to MegaMarchMadness as all games will now be available on a national basis for the 1st time. Now DirecTV could still create a mix channel that would show all channels on a single screen, but we'll have to wait and see what the NCAA does with the scheduling.
Advocates for a 96-team field
They believed that it would happen, but with the field now at 68, the dream of a 96-team field will be left to wonder whom screwed who? And why were they screwed?
The jury's still out on...
Those not in the BCS 6
With three additional bids now available, one would hope that those not apart of the BCS 6 would have greater access, but since every year is different, we'll look back next year and judge whether or not it will be a benefit, or will the BCS 6 will still dominate the selections.