What Does the Future Hold for the NCAA Tourney?

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.

2 replies on “What Does the Future Hold for the NCAA Tourney?”

I think the expansion is absolutely ridiculous. The quality number of teams in the tournament this year was significantly down and having 32 more teams is just silly. Could you imagine the likelihood of a team like UNC in the field today as say a 12 seed. There’s a team that finished near the bottom of a big time conference that would be in the tournament today. The NCAA tournament is my favorite sporting event of the entire year and the sport networks need to make their decision by using this quote, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.”

I can’t agree more. The entire reason that it’s coined March Madness is for the very reason that only 64 teams are allowed in. The exclusivity of the tournament is what creates so much value to fans, players, and coaches. It is the greatest example of team sport competition. There is a reason why people call in sick during the third week of March each and every year.

I just hope that ESPN, Turner, or whoever may pursue a big time contract, understand the significance of this scared event in college sports.

It seems like more and more, the idea that “everyone wins” has become part of sports. I mean if you don’t make the NCAA tourney, there’s the NIT, CIT, and “whatever else IT” for ‘being a winner.”

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