SBD/Issue 154/Collegiate Sports

NCAA: Monetary Difference Between 68, 96 Teams Not Substantial

NCAA Division I BOD Expected To Sign Off
On The Tournament Expansion To 68 Teams

NCAA officials Thursday said that the monetary difference between expanding the men's basketball tournament to 68 and 96 teams "wasn't substantial" enough to justify the larger increase, according to Steve Wieberg of USA TODAY. The NCAA Division I BOD is "expected to sign off on the expansion to 68 teams," part of the organization's new media rights deal with CBS and Turner, "when it meets next Thursday." The Division I men's basketball committee then "must work out the 68-team format, which will feature four opening-round games rather than the current one" (USA TODAY, 4/23). Ohio State AD Gene Smith, next season's Chair of the men's basketball committee, said that "for now the money isn't there to make a leap to 96, which started to become clear in negotiations after the Final Four." Smith: "I'm not sure the financial differential was much between 68 and 96. A lot of us assumed it would be. You assume more inventory would mean more money. But at the end of the day the games are played in the same window. It's not like you're going to get a whole lot more." NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen said, "There's no expectation that further conversations will take place related to the field anytime in the near future" (USA TODAY, 4/23). Interim NCAA President Jim Isch: "I think there were a number of people who made assumptions that we were going to 96 when in fact we were just conducting our due diligence" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 4/23). CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said, "We are very comfortable with 68 teams. That's what the deal is based on and it meets all our programming and financial needs" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/23). However, McManus pointed out that there is "flexibility in the TV deal to accommodate" further expansion (MIAMI HERALD, 4/23). Isch added, "Everything is still on the table" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/23).

THUMBS UP FOR NCAA: ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan wrote perhaps the most important part of the new arrangement is that the NCAA "managed to score a very rich deal without immediately expanding the tournament to 96 teams" (ESPN.com, 4/22). Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said of the NCAA's decision, "They preserved the character and integrity of what's taken a long time to create. It's elegant, and they kept the elegance and (didn't) dilute the brand." Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said the 68-team field "gives us a chance to help protect the regular-season and conference championship (games) in a way that I think a 96-team tournament would not have." He added, "I think it was actually pretty brilliant the way (the NCAA) prepared us all for that possibility and sort of took all those small bullets knowing that all along their hope was to sustain something smaller" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/23). In Philadelphia, Dick Jerardi writes, "If this NCAA Tournament expansion was somehow orchestrated, it was brilliant." After "so many assumptions for so many months that 96 was coming and it could not be stopped, who among us was going to complain when it was announced" that the tournament instead will expand to just 68? Meanwhile, Jerardi writes the "timing of the announcement seemed kind of curious, as it came in the hours before" the NFL Draft, but if you "don't want too many people to notice, this is how you do it" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/23).

Media Members Praise NCAA's Decision
To Expand To 68 Teams Instead Of 96

MAKING THE RIGHT CALL: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes it is "difficult to see" that the expansion is "anything but a win, win, win." Wolfley: "The NCAA gets more money. Fans get to keep the beautiful proportion of their tournament. The games move from regional to national exposure" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/23). ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil wrote 68 is a "whole lot better than 96" (ESPN.com, 4/22). SI.com's Luke Winn: "It represents a major victory for college basketball. The NCAA did the right thing" (SI.com, 4/22). ESPN's Dick Vitale wrote under the header, "Minimal Tourney Expansion A Good Call" (ESPN.com, 4/22). In N.Y., Dick Weiss notes an "outraged basketball community has spoken" against expanding to 96 teams, and "the committee, to its credit, listened" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/23). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gary Parrish wrote the NCAA “listened to its customers and responded appropriately” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/22). In San Diego, Jay Posner writes the 68-team setup "sure beats the heck out of going to 96 teams, which until Thursday seemed as certain as a sunny San Diego day" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/23).

JUST A STEPPING STONE? In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes a 68-team tournament is "likely just a temporary rest area" on the way to 96 teams. Vaccaro: "I'd rather have seen the NCAA just go ahead and beef the field up to where it wants it to be and where you have to figure it inevitably will go." The 68-team setup "smacks of inequity, and hints at the kind of big-footing that is likely to grow rampant all across college basketball in the next couple of years" (N.Y. POST, 4/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Norlander wrote, "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" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/22). FanHouse.com's Kevin Blackistone: "This is not the end of it. Someone told me that the 96 is still on the table and that by the time this agreement is over, that's where we'll be.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: "I don't think the NCAA would have got out of a very lucrative deal to do a new deal if they weren't heading down the road to 96 teams" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "This is not going to last. It's going to go to 96" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/22). In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor writes, "Gradually, a 68-team field will become 72, then 96, then 128 and eventually 256. If you think otherwise, you're kidding yourself" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 4/23). However, SPORTINGNEWS.com's Mike DeCourcy wrote the "fear that a move to 96 has only been delayed seems overwrought." The last time the NCAA expanded the tournament, the field "stayed the same size for 15 years -- and, at that point, an extra team was added only because the number of conferences grew" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/22).

ARE WE STILL INVITED? In N.Y., Lenn Robbins cites sources as saying that the "NIT is safe," and N.Y.-area officials are "hoping to sign a new deal through 2024." An NCAA tournament expansion to 96 teams "would have been a death knell for the NIT." But MSG Sports Exec VP Joel Fisher said, "College basketball is part of the fabled history of the Garden and the NIT has been a big part of that. We are encouraged by the prospects that it will continue to be a staple of our college basketball schedule" (N.Y. POST, 4/23).

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