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Vol. 45, No. 3 • April 2008 • .pdf version
Selection committee right to keep tournament field at 65
By DICK JERARDI / Philadelphia Daily News
Remember the commotion in the summer of 2006 about the potential expansion of the NCAA Tournament. Stories were written. Commentators pontificated. Ideas were tossed about.
It was awful. It was good. It was necessary. It wasn't.
There was just one small problem with all the noise. There was never any substance behind any of it. It was a non-starter for the only people that really mattered – the NCAA basketball committee.
What started at the end of a dull NABC press conference at the 2006 Final Four took on a life of its own, as stories, real and imagined, often do these days.
When Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim brought up the idea of an expanded tournament that day in Indianapolis, it was his thought. He had his reasons.
But, given that the NCAA Tournament is an unqualified success as is and practically every team gets a second chance anyway (through its conference tournament), was there really any need for more teams? I n fact, for the purists, the only change would be to get rid of the "opening round" (a.k.a. play-in game).
Sixty-four teams work. It worked in 1985. It works now.
Greg Shaheen runs the day-to-day operations of the tournament as the NCAA's senior vice president, basketball and business strategies. He heard all the noise. He was there when, as a courtesy, the committee met that spring with members of the NABC board to listen to their concerns He was there that summer when the committee showed no interest in making any changes.
"What we're trying to do in general is examine everything about the championship," Shaheen said. "We're always revisiting everything. We look at literally thousands of potential changes every year. (Expansion) certainly could come up again at some point in time, but there's no activity on it."
And there is not likely to be any activity on it anytime soon. And why should there be?
The format works. Everybody understands it. The public loves it. The players dream about being in it.
And, even if there were a good reason to expand (which there isn't), there would be serious logistical issues, such as the Masters.
"There are issues where you have to look at different scheduling challenges," Shaheen said. "We'd have to be mindful of broadcast considerations relative to other programming that our broadcast partner would have. The week after the Final Four is the Masters. CBS covers that. That's certainly a factor."
More teams would mean another weekend. CBS has that great three-weekend window. It works. They like what they are getting in the 11-year, $6 billion contract.
The NCAA Tournament is that most American of concepts. Win and keep playing. Win six games and you get to stand on a stage late on a Monday night in April, drowned in confetti after cutting down nets and listening to that song.
This is a good thing. The committee knows it. That is why the commotion died down quickly.
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