This year marks the potential end of the long-term contract between the NCAA and CBS Broadcasting – July 31 will be decision day.
The NCAA can opt out of the remainder of their contract, leaving new bidders coming with one thing in common – maximizing the bottom-line.
It has been reported by numerous sources that any sort of ‘opt-out’ will inevitably lead to an expansion of 32 additional teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Both Turner Broadcasting and ESPN are said to be likely candidates. It is expected that both will pursue an expansion to 96 teams, extending March Madness beyond what it is today.
So why do this? Money.
The argument by those in the business is that a longer tournament means more television coverage and more viewers. Whether or not that directly translates into a greater amount of revenues is to be determined.
After all, the ‘true’ tournament would not begin until ‘the 64’ anyway. The likelihood of early round blowouts would be significantly higher with many small conference at large bids as well as major conference ‘cup cakes’ providing for an utter mockery of college basketball – none of which would likely even make the traditional NCAA tournament.
ESPN, Turner Broadcasting, and whoever else might be interested in a long-term, multi-billion dollar media rights contract must understand one thing – the tournament is more than just dollar signs to sports fans, it is about the purity and integrity of the game.
Fans and players are what make the tournament what it is today. Neither have a say in this decision.
The NCAA Tournament is a rare spectacle in sports, losing its historical and unique quality is similar to losing one of the eight wonders of the world.
Once it’s gone – it’s gone forever.