Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis has had some pretty bold and creative ideas about the start of the college basketball season in recent years. He spearheaded the Carrier Classic. He conceived and executed us this year's excellent Veterans Day game at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. And his latest idea was his most ambitious and his craziest: One day, four games, one stadium, all at once.
Hollis's idea would have seen eight schools play on four different courts at Cowboys Stadium on the opening weekend of the 2013-14 college hoops season. Jerryworld would have been filled not only with fans but troops across the country, a recurring theme with the Carrier Classic and overseas airbase games. In the arena, the Ol' Double J's massive HDTV would have been split between the four games, while four different TV channels would carry the festivities to audiences live.
Believe it or not, of all the insane logistics issues posed by this plan, that last part -- finding a TV network or networks willing to put the games on the air -- was the deal-breaker.
Late last week, Hollis announced the plan was dead, telling the Detroit Free Press that "ESPN, CBS and Turner networks were approached, but there were concerns about "diluting exposure and tying down four networks," Hollis said, at a time of year in which college basketball does not typically receive high ratings," according to the story.
If you pay any attention at all to the current state of televised media, you'll realize how surprising this turn of events really is. In the past five years, as the rise of DVR has shifted TV value toward live sports, and cable networks, conferences and even old monoliths like NBC and CBS (and soon Fox) have clawed their win in on the action, finding someone to air your sporting event has become incredibly easy. Twenty-four hours is a lot of time to fill. And you're telling me Hollis & Co. couldn't find someone willing to push a buzzy, gimmicky one-off college hoops event? Did no one get ahold of Al Jazeera? Really?
Alas, perhaps that's for the best. While intriguing in theory, the whole thing sort of made college basketball seem desperate. Carrier games are one thing, and I'm all for playing overseas, but the problems with the early college hoops season have been addressed by great events like the Champions Classic, which is old-fashioned in so far as its two games are played one after the other. Putting eight teams on the Jerryworld HDTV in November felt a little too gimmicky, a plastic fast food meal toy for people who apparently need something shiny dangled in front of them to watch basketball in the first place.
Let's encourage top teams to play good opponents, and schedule games at campus gyms. How's that for a radical idea?