NCAA Takes Phony Road in Hoops Expansion Farce
The operative word, of course, is hypocrisy. For years, we've been bombarded by propaganda from university presidents who oppose a football playoff system because it would compromise academia. Yet when there's a chance to make a few more billion dollars by opting out of the NCAA basketball tournament's TV deal and expanding the brackets from 65 to 96 teams, the same presidents suddenly don't care that a whole lot of players will miss a whole lot of classes.
It's one of many problems associated with expanding the field of an event that's just right as it is, blessed with the perfect rhythm and pace and featuring enough breakthroughs (Butler, Northern Iowa and Cornell) to whet the Everyman appetite while showcasing enough royalty (Mike Krzyzewski and Duke, Tom Izzo and Michigan State) to lend the proper historic pomp. Why would anyone be so foolish to mess with something that has worked with great splendor these past two weeks -- and, generally, for decades?
The answer is greed, as you know. Not content to stick with the remaining three years and $2.131 billion left on an original 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS, the NCAA is itching to cash in and open the bids to other networks, including ESPN, the frontrunner for all sporting properties these days. To ratchet up the ultimate rights-fee price, the NCAA must provide more programming and opportunities for advertising dollars. Thus, on the eve of the Final Four, the media landscape has been planted with stories about a three-weekend event adding a fourth weekend and 31 teams. It was right there on the front page of the USA Today sports section, featuring a near-confirmation from one of college sport's power players.
"I said from Day 1 that I would support the decision that came out of the Board of Directors, which ostensibly is linked back to the presidents [in] the conferences," Big Ten commissioner JIm Delany said. "And if that's where it ends up, I support that."