Midway through a plodding NCAA tournament selection show Sunday afternoon on CBS, a tweet caught the attention of many college basketball lovers.
The message came from someone with a vulgar username we can't repeat here, but it included photos of what appeared to be the full leaked bracket as well as a bit of snark, "Spoiler alert: full bracket."
Scanning the bracket quickly revealed that everything that had already been announced on CBS was also accurate and as viewers followed along it became apparent that the correct full bracket had been revealed by someone on social media while CBS still had more than 34 teams to announce.
It is believed to be the first time since 2010 that details of the bracket have been leaked before the selection show ended. In 2010, a user on a Maryland-related message board revealed most of the key details such as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and which bubble teams were in and out before the selection show even started.
A spokesperson for CBS told me the network will have no comment. https://t.co/HPNRUDArK2— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 14, 2016
While CBS did not comment on the leaked bracket, the NCAA did release a statement to the media.
"We go through great lengths to prevent the tournament field from being revealed early and the NCAA took its usual measures to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, and regrettably, the bracket was revealed prior to our broadcast partners having the opportunity to finish unveiling it. We take this matter seriously and we are looking into it."
CBS and Turner go to great lengths to protect the finalized bracket before it is released, as detailed by our Jeff Eisenberg in this 2014 story. The broadcasting giants invested $10.8 billion for 14 years' worth of broadcasting rights for the NCAA tournament back in 2010 and a big part of the tournament is its selection show, which generally attracts higher ratings than any regular season college basketball game.
This quote from the Yahoo Sports story in 2014 makes it clear how important it is to all sides of the relationship that the bracket remain protected until it is revealed.
"Obviously our broadcast partners have made a major investment, and part of that is the exclusivity to unveiling the bracket," said David Worlock, the NCAA's Associate Director for Men's Basketball. "If it were to leak on another network or online, that would be a major mistake on our part. We want to do whatever we can to avoid that. That's why we stress it in the room and try to keep others out of the room."
Less than an hour after CSB wrapped up its broadcast, the Twitter account from which the leaked bracket originated was either shutdown by the user or suspended by Twitter.
It's unclear how many college teams and coaches might have found out they had made or missed the tournament from the leaked bracket as opposed to the traditional way of either seeing their names called on the broadcast or not. It is clear that some did learn their fate that way.
Michigan players did indeed see the leaked bracket. Basically knew their name was coming when it popped up on CBS.— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 13, 2016
How many people are going to name their brackets "Leaked Bracket"?— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) March 13, 2016
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