SBD/March 20, 2014/Events and Attractions

NCAA Tournament First Four Games Draw Over 23K In '14, A Slight Drop From Last Year

A total of 23,611 fans attended the two nights of the NCAA tournament's First Four games in Dayton, down from a total of 24,245 last year, according to Jay Morrison of the DAYTON DAILY NEWS. Last night's doubleheader of Cal Poly-Texas Southern and Tennessee-Iowa drew 11,534 fans. The attendance figures "could play a key role when it comes time for the NCAA to decide whether to keep the First Four in Dayton when the current contract expires after next season" (DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 3/20). ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted Tuesday's First Four games -- Albany-Mount St. Mary's and N.C. State-Xavier -- were played "in some half-empty arena." Wilbon: "There was no hype, there was little buzz." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the larger question" is why are there are "play-in" games in the first place. Kornheiser: "I don't think we should have play-in games at all. … I'm going to tell you that 64 is perfect." Wilbon said it is an "effort to not have anybody complain and scream" at the NCAA selection committee. Wilbon noted there initially was only one game played in Dayton when the NCAA expanded the tournament to 65 teams in '01. The game usually consisted of conference like the the SWAC and MEAC playing each other, which "had a certain overtone to it." Wilbon: "They had to get away from that, the black play-in game" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/19).

PLAYING GAMES? SPORTS ON EARTH's Aaron Gordon wrote the First Four and the "very concept of adding more games to any playoff-like format is not about fairness, inclusion or any other noble notions professed by executives or commissioners." Gordon: "It's about money. More games means more money means ... well, more money, which is the seemingly omnipotent explanation for everything in sports nowadays." The First Four games were created "at the same time" as the $10.8B TV deal that began in '11 between the NCAA and CBS/Turner for the rights to broadcast the tournament for 14 years. The reason the First Four "doesn't fit with the rest of March Madness is, well, because there's no madness." The NCAA "tried to make them special at a time in the tournament where the games aren't" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote when it comes to the First Four, there is "only so much lipstick anyone can put on this pig, this blatant money grab by the power conferences for a few more slices" of this $10.8B pie. Doyel: "The NCAA prefers that we don't call what happened Tuesday night a play-in game, and I prefer you don't call me bald." Even Albany's coach and players were "calling this thing a play-in game since Sunday night" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/18).
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