Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Note to NCAA: Do Not Expand!!

The NCAA wants to rake in more money from the tournament because CBS has declining revenues in the current television deal. And their simplest solution is expanding the 65-team tournament to 96, adding an extra weekend and as many as two extra games for some participants, meaning a champion may have require eight consecutive wins to earn the title.

This is ridiculous. The NCAA, as usual, is attempting to mess with a formula that doesn't need meddling because they are trying to scrape more money out of the system. College basketball is an effective and attractive entity already and the tournament reaches all sectors of America because of the popularity of the office pool. Even Jane from accounting is enthralled by March Madness, but the product and the excitement would be diluted with 96 teams.

Can you imagine the five or six teams who had a legitimate gripe about being included in this year's tourney -- Illinois, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, William & Mary, Arizona State -- along with 26 other teams being included? The first-round games would lack intrigue because many of the participants would be teams barely over the .500 mark. The standard for the NCAA Tournament has always been high and there have been many occasions where I was disappointed my Cal Bears were not selected, but each time I could point to three or four concrete reasons they fell short.

Of course, the NCAA believes the best way to earn more money is feeding the audience with more games, regardless of the quality. While the amount of Division I teams grows yearly, there needs to be perhaps a few more spots added to accommodate conference tournament winners and deserving at-large teams but 96 would turn the NCAA Tournament into a nearly month-long sojourn that would lose viewers and interest because it would take weeks to reach its apex.

Look at the NBA Playoffs as an example. The five-week process bores the non-diehard basketball fans, who want to be awaken when LeBron faces Kobe. They'll pass on a Milwaukee-Orlando seven-game first-round series. The NCAA has so many revenue streams it can figure out another more creative way to make money and keep the integrity and excitement of the NCAA Tournament. Things are OK just as they are now, just as Jane in accounting.