NCAA Tourney to Expand to 96 Teams?

Sports Business Journal reports today that the NCAA has been "meeting with broadcasters to explore the media value of expanding the men’s basketball tournament field." The report describes the talks as "preliminary."

The idea talked about with TV networks would likely take it from its current field of 65 teams to 96 teams and add another week to the competition, with the top 32 teams receiving byes. The move has been characterized as folding the NIT into the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA can opt out of its 11-year, $6-billion (yes, with a 'b') TV deal with CBS at the close of this year's Final Four, and more Tournament games will result in more Tournament games on TV which will result in more money made at the expense of amateur student-athletes. And of course, coaches are on board because more Tournament slots means that more teams can claim to have a successful season at the end of the year.

My reaction? Four words: Please, please, please, no.

The NCAA Tournament is, without a doubt, perfect in its current form. Every conference is guaranteed at least one spot, which means that every team theoretically starts the year with a chance to be national champs (unlike some other sports that have recently been in the news). Thirty-four at-large slots are enough to make sure that no team with a chance to win the whole thing is unjustly left out, but not so many that making the Tournament isn't some sort of accomplishment.

Is there any chance that this expansion won't happen? I guess so; the talks are preliminary. But we're talking about the NCAA: If there's a dollar to be made, they'll do whatever it takes to make it.


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