96-team NCAAT field could come as early as 2011

I’m not going to get into what I actually think of this move by the money-hungry NCAA because my blood pressure needs to stay at acceptable levels. Every time I hear about this move it makes me question the entire NCAA as a whole.

But despite any negative feelings from sports writers, fans, coaches or anyone else, expansion is going to happen. The question now is whether it will happen next year or in 2014 when the current TV contract is up. My money is on next year. The NCAA wants to make more cash as soon as it can. This is one sure fire way to do it. Nevermind that the regular season would become more pointless than it already has become or that 32 teams would actually get a first round bye in the tournament. None of that matters. Just money.

Let me say that I’m not surprised by this. Businesses make changes to make more money all the time. I guess I foolishly allowed myself that the NCAA might not be exactly like every other business. Maybe the NCAA was just a little bit different. A little more concerned with the integrity of competition and the sport itself. Wrong.

NCAA concludes 96-team field would be best fit for expansion

The NCAA appears to be on the verge of expanding the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams.

Insisting that nothing has been decided, NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen nonetheless outlined a detailed plan Thursday that included the logistics and timing of a 96-team tournament, how much time off the players would have and even revenue distribution.

Shaheen said the NCAA looked at keeping the current 65-team field and expanding to 68 or 80 teams, but decided the bigger bracket was best fit logistically and financially.

It would be played during the same time frame as the current three-week tournament and include first-round byes for 32 teams.

Although the plan still needs to be approved by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and passed on to the board of directors, most of the details already seem to be in place.

ESPN’s Dana O’Neil had a good column on the prospect of expansion this morning.

The NCAA made its annual state-of-the-game presentation as the Final Four festivities kicked off across the street from its headquarters. In the process, it unveiled the concoction the evil scientists have been working on over at the lab.

All the bubble battles in the weeks leading up to the tourney? Likely just seeding battles in the future.

No one said a 96-team NCAA tournament was coming for sure.

But they sure used an awful lot of words to explain how hypothetically such a tourney might look.

To be exact, 2,505 words were uttered in the opening address by Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s vice president for basketball and business strategies.

Yes, I counted.
What do you guys think of expanding the tournament? Good thing? Bad thing?

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College Basketball

59 Responses to 96-team NCAAT field could come as early as 2011

  1. tractor57 04/02/2010 at 8:45 AM #

    Obviously all about the money. So let’s just end the regular season and go in a national round robin starting in November.
    I watched less basketball this past season than I have in decades and there will not be a ratings boost from my TV for this new format.

  2. GApack04 04/02/2010 at 8:46 AM #

    I’m not a fan by any means, but I heard an interview with Billy Packer about it and it kinda opened my eyes. Packer believes that CBS is losing tons of money on the NCAAT currently and the network believes the only way to even come close to breaking even is to create more ad opportunities. The assumption is that ESPN will jump all over these early games and will sell the ad space quickly. I first thought this idea was all about making more money than they already make, but if Packer’s thoughts are true then I can’t say that I don’t blame them.

  3. NCSUGavin 04/02/2010 at 8:51 AM #

    silly question … but if this goes through, what happens to the NIT?

  4. choppack1 04/02/2010 at 8:53 AM #

    This will become known as the Mediocre Coaches and Lazy AD expansion.

  5. 61Packer 04/02/2010 at 9:09 AM #

    Expanding the tourney is a great idea if you’re Lee Fowler and Sidney Lowe.

  6. tractor57 04/02/2010 at 9:13 AM #

    Billy Packer’s comments are probably true BUT in my opinion showing more games with even more ads isn’t the real answer. Maybe CBS overpaid for the rights …

  7. Daily Update 04/02/2010 at 9:37 AM #

    I really don’t understand why people are against expansion. If you only want to watch the round 64, then just pretend the 1st round never happened. It won’t be any different except the 1st round games will be much more entertaining because teams actually have to play their way into the round of 64 so the field will be stronger. I really don’t understand why people are against settling the at-large births to the round of 64 on the court.

    The regular season is already meaningless with 64 teams. Still, everyone plays for seeding whether you are a #1 seed or a #24 seed.

  8. BJD95 04/02/2010 at 9:42 AM #

    Maybe this makes short term money, but long-term, they will have killed the golden goose.

    I’ve not talked to a single hard core college hoops fan who supports this move. Especially coming off such an exciting, unpredictable, and FUN tourney this year – screwing with the format is the equivalent of pissing on the hoops junkie’s foot.

    But what about the casual fan? This screws with them, too. A 96-team field will make the office pool much more cumbersome, because the bracket becomes unwieldy and the numbers of games is overwhelming. How many people who only watch sports casually (or usually don’t watch at all) do pay attention because of their brackets? I suspect that number is pretty huge. And they aren’t going to keep watching (especially those extra games “featuring” sub .500 ACC teams vs. .500ish squads from the Atlantic 10) so they can reminisce about their office pools of the past.

    And I don’t have an MBA or anything, but I’m pretty sure that alienating all facets of your customer base is not ultimately good for business. Just going out on a limb here.

    College basketball seems intent on killing itself, just like the NBA has already done. Football is overall a much better and more TV-friendly sport. And now college hoops wants to piss away its one and only advantage – an ideal post-season format that crowns a legitimate champion. There will still be a champion, but only after 2 weeks of a meaningless circus.

    So enjoy this Final Four, kids. This is essentially the “last dance.”

  9. choppack1 04/02/2010 at 9:58 AM #

    BJD – it’s not. And if you look at the seats – you’d think that the NCAA tourney game was a WNBA game or a US soccer game…and this is after they’ve done the “pods”.

    the game itself is in trouble – no one cares about the regular season anymore. Think about it – how often do you watch teams not named-NC State play in the regular season. I watch a lot of ACC basketball – but I don’t watch nearly as much of it as I did in the past…and I’ve pretty much stopped going to games all together.

    Now, compare this to college football, where the pundits are screaming for a playoffs – yet the regular season is played in front of rocking, packed stadium and people care about the regular season.

  10. Derek Medlin 04/02/2010 at 10:14 AM #


    I don’t think anyone knows for sure. My guess is the NIT sitcks around but the CBI and CIT will be goners.

  11. blackdom 04/02/2010 at 10:33 AM #

    It would be and is a terrible idea. If it did happen there is no way in hell the nit stays!

  12. rky 04/02/2010 at 10:43 AM #

    Consensus was that Lowe had to make the tourney next year to keep his job. Is there any possibility we could seriously suck so bad to not get into a field of 96?!? Making the Big Dance will just not mean what it did through this past year. Taking this inevitable expansion into account, what becomes the updated minimum level of ‘success’? I think any ACC coach who does not make the expanded field should be shown the door immediately. If a team cannot win at least a couple games in this new format, I think that demonstrates a pretty good level of sucktitude, too.

  13. Broccoman 04/02/2010 at 10:46 AM #

    RIP college basketball.

  14. Tiew 04/02/2010 at 10:54 AM #

    If they do this could the big deal become getting a 32 or greater position so as to get the first game off?

  15. Daily Update 04/02/2010 at 11:10 AM #

    Choppack: Exactly. The only thing interesting about college basketball now is the NCAA tournament. The regular season is totally meaningless because the field is already 64 teams. You might as well include more teams so that you give more fans a reason to actually follow the NCAA tournament.

    I really don’t watch much of the NCAA tournament to be honest. If I was included, then I would watch it.

  16. wolfbuff 04/02/2010 at 11:22 AM #

    They should leave well enough alone. The 64 team format is perfect for a number of reasons. One is it’s a nice even 2-to-the-power-of-x number. And it represents ~20% of the top teams vying for the national championship. So the regular season still means something. Detractors will talk about the RPI and this or that team should have gotten in.
    Guess what? No matter how many teams are in the tournament, there are always going to be bubble teams. And the RPI is about as close to an objective way to measure relative strength as there is. Finally, if CBS is losing money, it’s not due to the current format. It’s because they overestimated the value and paid too damn much.

    Expansion is bad for many reasons. First, it’s an uneven (in terms of tournament brackets) number. Second, it increases the percentage of teams in the tournament to almost 1/3, making the regular season not as meaningful. Teams with losing conference records are going to get in. Third, it adds another week to the tournament. Are they going to lengthen the season or cut back on the regular season? The latter takes money out of the schools’ pockets. The former degrades the term student-athlete. Finally, this is only an interim step. Much like the ill-fated 48 team format, it’s only a matter of time before they go to 128, and college basketball will be like the NBA and NHL.

    Bad idea, NCAA!

  17. Gene 04/02/2010 at 12:16 PM #

    Expand the field to 256 teams. One weekend of more college basketball than the human mind and body could possibly handle.

    The opening day would be followed up with the round of 128! Again tons of b-ball to be played and then we’d get to the more accustomed field of 64 teams the next weekend.

  18. WolftownVA81 04/02/2010 at 12:25 PM #

    I think it’s overkill. I like the current format even if we can’t seem to qualify for entry. I supose all 96 teams invited will get a trophy too. It seems to be a common theme these days, set the bar low so everyone wins.

  19. Badinboarder09 04/02/2010 at 12:37 PM #

    CBS should just drop all rights and let ESPN show all the games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ABC. They can show every game that way instead of just 2 games at a time on CBSHD and This.TV (which nobody gets)… 64 teams, 4 channels: same format that fans love but 4X as much ad opportunity that the NCAA and Networks love… Win win.

  20. blackdom 04/02/2010 at 12:47 PM #

    It will make the regular season meaningless .It has been deluted already but now who cares? Not that we do but why would anyone have a strong ooc schedule?

  21. VaWolf82 04/02/2010 at 1:03 PM #

    Not that we do but why would anyone have a strong ooc schedule?


    This year (and previous ones) teams like VT were sent to the NIT as a penalty for scheduling a weak OOC schedules. With a 96 team field, there is no way that you could leave a VT out…but you can seed them much lower than “expected”.

  22. Wulfpack 04/02/2010 at 1:05 PM #

    The NIT would be eliminated. This is a horrendously bad idea. I won’t watch the first round. If a major program doesn’t make it into the field of 96, they don’t deserve to play ball.

  23. MP 04/02/2010 at 1:09 PM #

    Assuming this is going to happen… whether we like it or not. Thought about various combinations, etc. If they are trying to make money, they should arrange it so that they keep MORE people interested for a longer time.

    1st weekend: Thurs/Fri: Round of 33-96, Sat/Sun: Round of 64.
    2nd weekend: Thurs/Fri: Round of 32, Sat/Sun: Round of 16.
    3rd weekend: Thurs: Round of 8, Sat: Final Fourn, Mon: Final.

    And if they really want to make money, have the final long weekend in Vegas every year!

  24. PapaJohn 04/02/2010 at 1:12 PM #

    Anyone remember what the reaction was the last time they expanded? I think I read that was in ’85. Was that also considered to be a catastrophe as well, or was that change welcomed? That created the greatest sporting event in the world, as far as I am concerned.

    The format they are discussing is that the top 32 get a first round bye, which I think means you’d get a round of 64 teams playing followed by another round of 64 teams playing – the first round winners versus the bye teams. So the first round games would be teams ranked 33-96 playing each other.

    I’m thinking the ‘increased viewership’ is going to be a wash. You’ll get 32 more school’s fans, but a lot of them would have watched anyway. Plus you’ll lose the fans like me that would watch early round games for the potential upsets. Who cares if a 96 seed ‘upsets’ a 33 seed?

    I think the 96 team tourney will happen because they think they’ll get a huge revenue bump, but I don’t believe it will actually show up in the bank.

    And, if I understand it correctly, the bye teams would only have to win 5 games to win it all. Someone will have to correct me probably, but I think no one has ever won the NCAAT ranked lower than 8 (Villanova), right? (I know we were a 6 and they were lower) I’d say this dramatically decreases the likelihood to near impossibility of a true dark horse winning it all. And, even though it is pretty unlikely now, that’s part of why we watch.

    This cannot be a good idea.

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