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Ivy League athletic directors shoot down conference tournament proposal

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Princeton upset Harvard in a one-game playoff to decide the 2011 Ivy League champ

The unanimous support of the Ivy League's eight men's basketball coaches apparently wasn't enough to persuade the league's athletic directors to adopt a proposal to hold an annual conference tournament.

The league announced Thursday that its athletic directors have shot down the proposal for a four-team tournament after discussing it this week at their annual spring meetings. That means the Ivy League will remain the only Division I conference that awards its automatic NCAA tournament berth to the regular season champion rather than the winner of a postseason tournament.

"After careful consideration of these proposals, the athletics directors decided that our current method of determining the Ivy League champion and our automatic bid recipient to the NCAA Championship is the best model moving forward," Ivy League executive director Robin Smith said in a statement.

The idea of holding a postseason tournament in a conference that traditionally produces only one NCAA tournament team has plenty of detractors. The single-elimination format increases the odds the regular-season champion won't represent the league in the NCAA tournament, potentially decreasing the chances the league will enjoy success in March.

That argument especially rings true in the Ivy League, one of the few that decides its regular season champion via a double round-robin scheduling format. The winner of the Ivy League is always a deserving champion because all eight teams in the league play their peers the same number of times, both at home and on the road.

What led the league's coaches to band together and push for a postseason tournament is the benefits such an event can provide. A tournament generates national exposure for the conference, gives fans a season-ending event to look forward to and provides losing teams a goal to keep playing for even after their conference title hopes evaporate.

Yale coach James Jones, the longest-tenured coach in the league, said last month the lack of a postseason tournament hampers recruiting since the Ivy League cannot give student-athletes an opportunity to compete in something other conferences can. He cited the one-game playoff between Princeton and Harvard to decide the 2011 regular season champion as an example of the attention a postseason tournament could produce.

"I've been around this league so long now that I know the Ivy League does things a different way than a lot of other places," Jones said. "I truly get it. I understand we're different than other people. Sometimes I take pride in being different, but in this case I think we're missing the boat."

At that time, Jones was cautiously optimistic the proposal for a conference tournament had more momentum than past attempts. Turns out it didn't have enough to win over the league's athletic directors, let alone the school presidents — and that may not be such a bad thing.

The Ivy League often receives criticism for being resistant to change, but this is one example where sticking with tradition is probably the best approach.

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