"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

NCAA exploring the expansion of bids to NCAA tournament

The NCAA has begun to meet with television executives about possibly expanding the NCAA tournament field. I, for one, have been a proponent of this for a long time. There are now 347 Division 1 teams for 65 NCAA spots. This basically means that 18.7% of schools make the tournament and that number decreases each year. It has become harder and harder to get into the tournament, especially for some schools depending on their conference affiliation. In years past, the percentage of teams making the NCAA tournament was signficantly higher. For example, in 1985 when the field expanded from 48 to 64 teams, almost 25% of schools made the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA has the option to escape from their CBS 11-year, $6 billion deal if they wish. Talks ongoing now are preliminary in nature, but could lead to the tournament going partly (or fully) to cable (i.e. ESPN or FOX). At the end of the 2010 tournament, the NCAA can bolt the current deal.

The proposals being viewed would be to expand the tournament to 96 teams and eliminate the NIT all together. As we all know, the current field does not put the "best 65" into the tournament, but rather the best 40 to 45 plus a lot of conference tournament winners from smaller conferences. This has caused many smaller conference teams from being rejected because they lost in their conference tourney despite having a great season. This has also led to lopsided dominance for the 1, 2 and 3 seeds over the years in the NCAA tournament itself. The expanded field would bring more money to the NCAA and add one week of additional competition for some schools (top seeds would get a bye).

Of course, not everyone agrees. Many fans don't want the change and feel 65 is the correct number. In the end, this is about money. It's going to happen, the question is when. The tournament will expand to 72, 80 or 96 or even larger.

History of changes over the years:

1939 - 1950: eight teams
1951 - 1952: 16 teams
1953 - 1974: between 22 and 25 teams
1975 - 1978: 32 teams
1979: 40 teams
1980 - 1982: 48 teams
1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
1985 - 2000: 64 teams
2001 - present: 65 teams

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