Calhoun not a fan of tourney expansion

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
11:20
AM ET
Since it became clear that the NCAA was considering expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams*, just about every coach who's said anything has said he likes it. Why wouldn't he? More teams in the tournament means fewer embarrassing NIT seasons, and what's best for coaches as a whole tends to be best for coaches as individuals.

(*Which, by the way, the official position of the NCAA, according to vice president of basketball and business strategies Greg Shaheen, is still that the NCAA is merely performing due diligence on its contracts, will be seeking the best contract for itself and member institutions, and that no decisions have been reached. And now you know.)

Jim Boeheim likes expansion. So does Billy Donovan. Jamie Dixon and Bobby Gonzalez are all for it. If the NCAA was looking for a reliable pro-expansion advocate, the men with the clipboards are thus far performing admirably.

Ah, except for one. Jim Calhoun was on his leave of absence when the expansion talk broke. This past weekend, Calhoun finally got the chance to share his opinion on the matter, and that sound you hear is a refreshing breath of fresh air flying through your metaphorical window:
"If I really thought it was better for the game, if someone could show me why it is, then I would say yes," Calhoun said. "If it's just to make additional monies, I would say no."

"We'd probably be in a 96-team field but not get into a 65-team field. This might be the year I should really be speaking for it," Calhoun said before his team's game against Rutgers. "But I've always felt it's an honor and a privilege to be one of those 65 teams."

"I think basketball sometimes is used," Calhoun said. "I love our game and I don't think our game should be treated sometimes the way it is."

I'm not so sure about the used part -- the NCAA is merely trying to do what Calhoun has done his whole career, which is provide an educational environment for college athletes while also making millions and millions of dollars from those athletes' talents. If one party is "using" college basketball, both are.

But if you're looking for a little healthy skepticism regarding expansion, here it is, and isn't it refreshing? Calhoun's right. It'd be nice to hear an argument for expansion that focused on why making the tournament larger will actually improve college basketball, rather than fatalist arguments about the amount of money the NCAA stands to make. Those benevolent reasons no doubt exist. Let's hear them. In the meantime, maybe a few other coaches could take Calhoun's lead, tempering their enthusiasm until something better than "more teams, more money" is the prevalent argument.

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