A New Kind of March Madness

I think everyone who went to college had a rich buddy who never listened to anyone. He had enough money to make his mistakes negligible. Wreck a car? Dad will get him a new one. Trash his apartment during a party? Ask Mom for money for something else and use it to re-furnish. No decision required much thought because the funds kept coming in.

Right now, the NCAA is that arrogant rich guy not thinking of what might happen next week. If you haven’t heard, the college sports mafia will probably expand the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams next year. You think picking the first round in your bracket was hard with 64 teams, just wait.

I use the rich kid analysis with this is because they don’t have this idea on the table because of some hue and cry for more games or some mandate from the fans. The NCAA can opt out of its TV contract with CBS after this year’s tournament, and they think that adding more teams will get them more money from whoever televises the 2011 tournament. Since they signed an 11-year, $6 billion (yeah, billion) deal the last time around, you can see why they need to scheme to make every penny they can. Poor guys must be starving.

The whole idea stinks. No one wants this except the people running the NCAA, who want to squeeze more money out of a bidding war between CBS and ESPN?ABC, and the coaches and presidents at Division I schools who will have an easier chance to brag that their team made the tournament.

I appreciate that the money from events like this one plays a critical role in funding so many other NCAA activities. So many athletes in so-called minor sports get a chance to chase their dreams because of the success of March Madness. But don’t make the tournament a joke just to squeeze a few extra pennies from the networks.

If you need money, perhaps there’s a chance to establish a post-season tournament in a sport which could bring in enough revenue to convince officials that the 65-team basketball tournament does not need to change. If I could only think of a wildly popular sport with huge fan and television interest that does not have a tournament even though pretty much everyone who watches it wants the NCAA to add an official championship.

I’m drawing a blank. Anyone have any ideas?

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