We've had a joyous day, now let us return to cynicism.
There's no telling how long we'll have a 68-team tournament, after all.
The press release, in case you missed it, only states that the 2011 NCAA tournament will abide by the new rules. Come 2012, we could see the field in the form we fear the most: 96 teams.
What are the chances of this? Can we deduce how the NCAA and its Board of Directors will act? No, but for those who may worry this slightly inflated field may not last long — or could be a stop-gap — I think there is a good chance we see the tournament stay as is for at least a half-decade.
Still, you reserve the right to be a skeptic.
Of course, I'd like to never see it expanded ever again, but let's take what we can get. The NCAA desperately wanted out of its deal according to quite a few people I've spoken to ... and so did CBS. They'd have to, right? A lot of the money on that $6 billion dollar deal was owed in the final three years of the contract.
Now Turner comes along to walk in step with CBS and get a bigger deal in place for the NCAA, money-wise, for a longer period of time than the previous deal. Plus, it'll have its entire product on network and cable television at once. All the games live and for the viewer to choose to watch. For as great as the DirecTV college basketball March Madness package was, it didn't do the NCAA much good.
It's more exposure, if you can believe it, and the NCAA brass has to be happy with that. I think they'll get greedy in time (let's remember what we're dealing with), but with so many ADs now beginning to say how much they didn't like 96 teams, I think it's going to be a situation where the NCAA backs its television partners in the coming years over this 68-team deal. Talks had been going on since October, and you have to think this plan that's assembled was heavily plotted out for more than a month.
When the Board of Directors votes on this next Thursday, it'll surely pass. I think that will simmer the talks of any further tournament expansion in the near future.
Now, when Turner gets the Final Four rights in 2016 and has to alternate with CBS, we could see some change. I mean, you can look at the reaction on this blog and around the Internet: all the talk of 96 lessened the blow of this expansion. Perhaps this is the first step in what many, secretly, have discussed to be an expanded tournament down the road. When TBS airs the Final Four will that coincide with a shift in the tournament? One doesn't lend itself to the other; it's just the symmetry of it.
We're not out of the woods, and who knows if we'll ever be; hard to put this genie back in the bottle. Ninety-six teams will always be something of a threat until the NCAA states it no longer is interested in that "model" or "plan."
And you don't ever see that happening, do you?