Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Should the NCAA Tournament expand?

Read a roundup of today's stories, then tell me what you think.

Should the NCAA Tournament expand?

The big news of the day is word that the NCAA is ready to expand its men's basketball tournament.

Sports Business Journal and the blog Sports By Brooks have confirmed through separate sources that expansion to either 68 or 96 teams is on the table.

SBJ's John Ourand and Michael Smith report that "CBS and Turner Sports are in discussions to create a joint bid for the NCAA tournament rights if the NCAA decides to opt out of its current CBS deal."

Ourand and Smith acquired a copy of the Request for Proposals that the NCAA issued, and has on-the-record quotes from Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's senior vice president for basketball and business strategies.

(That title doesn't take much translation, does it?)

The 68-team tournament would have four play-in games. It's not clear whether those would be fore conference champions or at-large teams, but we can guess.

The NCAA is also looking to do some serious muscle-flexing. It wants "a 14-year term on its next media deal, with a 'no-penalty, early termination right in favor of the NCAA,' according to the RFP" seen by SBJ.

If the tournament expands to 96 teams, broadcasts would be shared by a cable outlet and a broadcast network. Thus the joint bid between CBS and Turner. But you know that ESPN will put everything it can on the table to get the rights for itself.

Sports By Brooks spoke with a source at ESPN who said: "It’s a done deal with the expansion of the tournament. Depending on how soon a (TV) deal is done, the added teams could start next year."

I haven't seen the RFP published online anywhere. But CAAHooops.com's Michael Litos found this PDF of minutes from a January 4 meeting of the NCAA's Division I Championships/Sport Management Cabinet.

The document includes a long list of suggestions for how to cut costs and raise revenue. And right there on Page 3 of the report, under the "Revenue Generation" section, is the big kahuna:

Consider bracket expansion for men’s basketball (to generate more money).

Notice that it doesn't say "to allow more student-athletes to enjoy participating in the post-season," or "to keep more coaches employed," or "to get more non-BCS conference schools on national television."

It says "to generate more money." That's about as blunt as it gets.

There are actually a lot of proposals in the document. Some of the more interesting ones:

- "Prohibit hotel accommodations on the night before home contests."
- "Evaluate the number of complimentary tickets student-athletes are permitted to receive for NCAA championships."
- "Review officials’ fees and do not rely too heavily on market value. There is inherent value in officiating NCAA championships."
- "Evaluate food provided to media at NCAA events."
- "Look at impact of reducing committee member per diem."

I think we know which one of those will happen (and which one probably won't).

There also appears to be a possibility that the NCAA will consider overturning its ban on alcohol advertising. That would be a huge revenue generator.

So now I turn to you. Should the NCAA Tournament be expanded? Have your say in the poll and the comments.

More coverage
Should the NCAA Tournament expand?
Yes, to 68 teams.
Yes, to 96 teams.
No, it should stay the same.
Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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