December 08, 2009
It would be a flop on par with New Coke, the Edsel or Adam Morrison in the NBA: The NCAA is exploring the possibility of expanding the field of the NCAA tournament.
According to Sports Business Journal, the organization will explore how much money it could get in a new television deal if it expanded the 65-team field to 96.
"The potential expansion of the NCAA tournament has support in collegiate circles, particularly from college basketball coaches. The idea talked about with TV networks would likely take it from its current field of 65 teams to 96 teams and add another week to the competition, with the top 32 teams receiving byes. The move has been characterized as folding the NIT into the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA clearly expects that the added week of games would significantly increase the tournament's rights fee. A larger field would mean more content, more scheduling opportunities and theoretically more revenue for the broadcaster and the NCAA, which derives more than 90 percent of its total annual revenue from the tournament's media deal. Nearly all of that revenue passes through the NCAA and is distributed to its member institutions."
It's the worst idea the NCAA has ever had, and it has had a bunch of them. Decisions based solely on financial reasons inevitably fail. And since money is the only -- ONLY -- reason the NCAA would consider expanding the tournament, this would be a disaster. (And that's assuming expansion would make money, which I don't think it would in the long run.)
A few of the major issues that would arise from an expanded field: the regular season would be rendered even more meaningless, a glut of mediocre-to-bad big-conference schools would reap the benefit and casual fans wouldn't be as interested in filling out a 96-team bracket (too daunting, asymmetrical, wouldn't fit on a regular sheet of paper). There's no call for more NCAA tournament games. Pretty much everyone thinks the 64-game event is perfect, except for one very biased interest group.
As SBJ reports, some college basketball coaches like the idea (Jim Boeheim, in particular). Of course they do. The more teams that get into the NCAA tournament, the fewer reasons there will be to fire the coaches of the 32 teams that wouldn't have made it otherwise. It's a self-serving move. It's like Congress having the ability to vote itself a raise.
If you're scoring at home, the only two valid reasons to expand the tourney: the possibility of getting more money and mediocre coaches getting a stay of execution. Sounds like a good reason to ruin the best event in sports to me!
Granted, we're far from expansion. But this is an idea that doesn't even deserve to get to the exploratory phases. If the brackets ain't broke, don't fix 'em.