Thursday, April 22, 2010
The tournament apocalypse has arrived
By Eamonn Brennan
Today's big news is going to be a little bit gloomy, because guess what? All your worst fears about the NCAA tournament are true.
A new tournament? Yep. Immediate overhaul beginning in 2010-11? Yes. 96 teams? Bet on it.
According to USA Today, CBS and Turner Sports have reached a "14-year, multibillion dollar agreement" with the NCAA for the rights to an expanding NCAA tournament, citing "multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations." USA Today says the expansion could be to anywhere from 68 to 96 teams, but Turner's inclusion on the deal means the tournament is almost definitely going to be expanded to 96, as there is little reason for CBS to include a cable network in its new deal with the NCAA if the tournament was staying similar to its current format. Think about it: 68 teams hardly requires a two-pronged media blitz on cable and network television. But 96 does. (That said, the ability to show multiple games at the same time on the first weekend of the tournament to those without DirecTV's pay-per-view tournament package would be a nice addition to a regular, sanely sized tournament. Not that it's going to matter.)
Confirmation and an announcement are still necessary here, so let's not freak out too much. Maybe it's just a new contract, and maybe it doesn't necessarily reach into 96-team territory. The NCAA has scheduled a teleconference for 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss its new "multimedia rights agreement," so we'll have more answers then. But combined with NCAA senior vice president of basketball and business strategies Greg Shaheen's disastrous and revealing news conference at the Final Four, this report portends exactly what those who hate the idea of an expanded NCAA tournament -- which is, like, everybody -- feared. The four horsemen of the expansion apocalypse have arrived, and the NCAA tournament will never be the same.