I have said previously that March Madness is my favorite sporting event on the calendar and that its existence provides the only justification for the NCAA to exist. I stand by that position just as I stand by my previous position that more is not necessarily better when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. I have always opposed expansion of the tournament beyond 64 teams and there is only one way I would support the idea of a 96-team bracket.
- If the powers that be MUST expand March Madness to 96 teams, they should make the selections giving the top 32 teams a first round BYE.
- That leaves the “Bottom 64” to play among themselves in essentially 32 “Play-In Games”.
- The 32 “Play-In winners” would then be seeded with the Top 32 who got a BYE.
- The 32 “Play-In losers” would then make up the field for the NIT.
Other than that, my preference is to put the field back at 64 teams and leave it there. So, it should come as no surprise that I will provide no support at all for a proposal by the ACC basketball coaches to stage an “inclusive” tournament consisting of all 346 college basketball teams that are eligible for the tournament. The Idea here can be stated so nobly that some folks may shy away from saying that it is a bad idea; the idea here is to give every college basketball player a chance to play on the ultimate stage of college basketball. Think about it:
- Everyone gets to participate.
- Everyone has a chance to be a champion.
- The potential for underdog stories will abound, Think about Rudy and Rocky and Hoosiers…
Maybe the ACC coaches think that this is a way for the NCAA to increase revenue from the tournament and thereby make up some of the lost revenue from not having staged a March Madness in 2020. The problem with that thinking – if it indeed is out there somewhere – is that any revenue increase will not scale linearly. The NCAA – in round numbers – takes in $1B for TV rights to its 68-team event. The “All-Inclusive 346-team event” will not generate revenue according to the formula:
- 346/68 X $1B = $5.1B
Trust me; if there were even a prayer that kind of revenue could be achieved by letting everyone play, the NCAA would have glommed onto that idea at least a decade ago. Even if the NCAA could create an auction for the early round games in the “All-Inclusive Tournament”, I cannot see any networks throwing big money at the early round games where high seeds like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas or Michigan State square off against the likes of Chicago State, Alcorn A&M, Marist or Austin Peay.
In fact, there might be a net loss of revenue for college basketball under the expansion model. Minor conferences stage conference tournaments and take in minor amounts of money from those broadcasting rights. If the “All-Inclusive” tournament comes to pass, why hold those conference tournaments and why would a network bother to pay to put those preliminary events on the air?
Moreover, there is another obstacle to this idea lurking out there. That “other obstacle” would be known as Title IX; there are about 350 women’s college basketball teams that play what is nominally Division 1 basketball and it would not shock me to learn that someone, somewhere might ask for equal treatment with regard to tournament exposure. If you think early round men’s games in the “All-Inclusive” tournament would be thundering blowouts, imagine the carnage for the early-round women’s games. After all, even in the women’s 64-team brackets, there are few if any teams on the lower side of a bracket draw that even make the Sweet Sixteen. The idea of tuning in to watch the 340th seed play the 10th seed in such a women’s tournament is about as appealing as a root canal.
The ACC basketball coaches are not bad people and I have no reason to think that their proposal here is malevolent in any way. I do think it is misguided and purposeless and that it should be dismissed posthaste and without further comment.
Switching gears – sort of – there was a recent study done for Safebettingsites.com that estimated the loss of revenue by various US sports this year due to loss of ticket sales. Here are the estimated losses for US sports solely due to the lack of ticket sales in 2020:
- MLB – – $5.1B
- NBA – – $1.7B
- NHL – – $1.1B
- MLS – – $0.6B
- NCAA – $0.3B (From the lack of ticket sales to March Madness only)
Ten MLB teams will see revenues drop at least $100M this year with the Dodgers estimated to experience a drop of just over $200M. In the NBA, the Lakers’ revenue loss will be on the order of $82M; and in the NHL, the Maple Leafs should see the biggest decline in ticket revenue at $42M.
Somewhere down the road, we will get estimates akin to these for the NFL as it proceeds with its 2020 season starting tonight.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:
“Ray Ciccarelli, the unsuccessful NASCAR truck-series driver who threatened to quit over the sport’s Confederate flag ban, is now hedging on that. His fans are happy. Both of them.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………