March Madness expansion looking like a go for 2011

March 31, 2010
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The pendulum of support is swinging and the idea of expanding the men's NCAA basketball tournament from 65 to 96 teams is now gaining support from Big Ten conference and school officials.

Big Ten officials today confirmed to IBJ that expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams next year is highly likely.

As first reported in the IBJ in December, the NCAA is contemplating expanding its annual men’s basketball tournament from the current three-week, 65-team format to one featuring an added week and another 31 teams.

“We’re entering a window where it makes sense to evaluate all of our assets, all of our events,” said Greg Shaheen, NCAA senior vice president of basketball and business strategies.

Proponents of the plan say it will generate a bigger television rights-fee deal for the not-for-profit NCAA, which disperses 95 percent of that to member institutions.

The NCAA, based in Indianapolis, also is studying shifting some tournament games from network to cable TV, and broadcast industry experts expect the bidding war to be intense if it’s opened up.

But opponents—including some athletic directors—fear it could dilute the product and diminish the meaning of the regular-season and conference tournaments.

The prevailing consensus on tournament expansion may be shifting, according to sources within the Big Ten, who said a number of conference athletic directors and university presidents are “warming to the idea.” And quite frankly, sources within the Big Ten admitted, much of that has to do with the thought that an expanded tournament will bring a bigger pay day.

Money isn’t the only factor, insisted Shaheen.

“Many of the advocates talk about how the membership has grown significantly over the years and how an expansion could accommodate more schools,” Shaheen said. He noted that there were 280 Division I NCAA schools in 1985, when the tournament expanded from 53 teams to 64. Now, there are 343 member schools. “To an extent, it’s a matter of supply and demand,” Shaheen said.

It’s still not clear what impact an expanded tournament would have on the regular season or conference tournaments. It also isn’t clear what will happen to the NCAA-owned 32-team National Invitation Tournament.

Thoughts of expanding the tournament are heating up as a unilateral opt-out clause for the NCAA with its current TV partner, CBS, approaches. The NCAA signed an 11-year, $6 billion deal with CBS to air the tournament in 1999. The deal runs from 2003 through 2013, but the NCAA can end it after the 2010 tournament

Broadcast industry executives said they were contacted late last fall by NCAA officials to gauge their interest in bidding for an expanded tournament.
The men’s tournament—called March Madness—accounts for more than 90 percent of the NCAA’s revenue and is responsible for funding many other NCAA sports tournaments, events and initiatives.

The NCAA board will address the matter when it meets April 29 in Indianapolis.

  • Expansion
    Hate it!
  • Mo' Money
    The NCAA will spin this every which way except admitting this boils down to more dollars. 95% of the public (fans, talking heads, etc) are against the expansion, while the small percent who are in favor for financial reasons are also in control. Sound Familiar....Think BCS
  • Hoosier Hysteria
    It is a horrible reminds me what the IHSAA did to Boy's High School State took away all the excitement...everyone used to be able to tell you who was the state you can't even name one for the hype isn't there after it went to class basketball and the tickets sales dropped off drastically too. Same thing will happen if this goes through...Keep the Madness in March.....doesn't Butler prove that it is possible for any type of team to make it to the Final Four! They aren't whining about it.
  • Gotta agree ... Mo' Money
    Opportunities for more money my eye. Eventually this greed will backfire and will result in a watered down product the consumer is no longer crazy for. On the other hand, if it pays for non-revenue generating sports, who will argue against it. But is that really where the money is going? Somehow, I doubt it.
  • The NCAA needs to be careful that they do not kill the golden goose. the NCAA Tourney is at its peak, I would be concerend that they are getting into overkill. They already take most major conference teams over .500, do they start taking teams below .500 in their conference? Or do they add more mid majors and small schools that do not have huge fan followings? Does anyone want to see a Duke kill IU or Kentucky wallop Eastern Mid Northern State Technical College of Western Kansas? I am thinking they need to refine what they have, and call it good.

    If they must expand, then fold the teams from the NIT into the NCAA and call it done. But the best NIT team really does not have much chance in the big tourney.
  • Tourney could use more mid-majors
    While I agree to some extent with the comment regarding not killing the golden goose, I disagree about the ability of mid-majors to compete. As a matter of fact, it seems that Indianapolis brings the best out of mid-majors (George Mason in '06, Butler in '10). Yes, expansion will mean that a few more 17-16 teams from the power conferences will get in (think Miss St.), but it also means that the #2 and #3 teams from several mid-majors (UAB, Dayton) would get in. Given the number of upsets in this year's tourney, it speaks to the fact that you have to play the game. Think Milan or Crispus Attucks.
  • NCAA Tournament Expansion
    Of the 65 teams currently eligible for the tournament, how many are cannon fodder? There are already 30 too many teams. Hopefully fans of 30 new unworthy teams will refuse to pay for tickets.
  • Bubble Round
    With the change in scholorships, the mid-majors have been able to attract better talent. The reason the mid-majors have a hard time getting into the current 65 team field is because large schools won't play them. If you don't play the mid-majors versus the large schools, then you don't have any comparison to gauge their competitiveness.

    I would be in favor of expanding the field, but calling it a Bubble Tournament. Currently, the 64th & 65th teams play their way into the tournament, then everyone whines about the last five teams that didn't make it in. You could take the bottom four seeds from each region, add another 16 teams, and have a round of Bubble games. Finally, you would set the field of 64 teams and start March Madness.

    I am not in favor of adding another 33 teams to the field as it would water down the tournament.
  • They'll Do What They Want
    This is one of those cases where the NCAA will do what they want. It's a money grab and has very little to do with competition. The conference tourneys are all about money, too. At this point, I could care less what they do. Sports in general is wearing me down as money, rather than competition, trumps sports - both pro and college. Our opinion doesn't count, because they know the fans will not go away. So why even care?
  • worst
    idea.ever. [seems there is no such thing as too much GREED in 'Merka, as long as somebody's makin' money offa the 'amateur' athletes!]
  • Mo' Money
    They should expand it to 256 teams and just play a bunch of practice games and then have the tourney. If there's any way to make the season meaningless its adding 50% more teams.

    Will everyone ignore the first round like they do the play in game now and then fill out their brackets once they get to 64. Its going to be some fine print to get 96 teams on a 8x11 piece of paper.

    Don't underestimate the office pool and getting the casual fan to watch games.
  • Go global!
    I have a better idea. Cancel all or most of the regular season, let all 343 DI schools in the tourney, then let all the other colleges and universities in worldwide. That way you take NCAA hoops (just like big bro NBA wants to do) global and you make gobs and gobs of cash. It would be totally unreal!!!

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