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Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Frederick has seen tourney change

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Fans of Kansas University men's basketball love the NCAA's new pod system.

Without the new format, KU would have been dispatched to either Chicago or Dallas as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional. Instead, the Jayhawks were sent to St. Louis, a closer site by about three hours as the automobile drives.

Don't ask fans at Wake Forest, Indiana or UNC-Wilmington how they feel about the pod system, though. It didn't help them. All three of those schools were sent to Sacramento, umpteen miles from home.

"It's never going to be perfect," said Bob Frederick, the former Kansas University athletic director who spent two years (1995-1996) as chair of the NCAA Selection Committee. "There are still people moving three time zones, but that will have to happen."

Happen it will because two-thirds of the NCAA Division One schools are located east of the Mississippi River.

When Frederick was committee chair, the pod system was unheard of.

"What we tried to do," he said, "was get the top seed in a four-team group like 9-10-11-12 or 13-14-15-16 as close to their home area as we could."

On the surface, the pod system has made a complicated process even more complex. Yet the bracket wasn't as difficult to devise as it would appear, according to Frederick.

"No, I don't think so," he said, "because I think what they did I don't know for a fact, but I talked to staff people they just went ahead and seeded teams the way they always have. Then they looked at the pods."

Quite likely, the pod system will remain a part of the selection process, although it could be tweaked. For instance, there is no real reason to list St. Louis as a South Regional site when it will contain pods from the Midwest and East regionals.

In the future, the NCAA could simply select eight sites without East-South-Midwest-West labels to use for first- and second-round games. Regardless, the higher the seed the more likely it is a team won't have to travel far.

"They'll wait and see how it works out," Frederick said.

The pod system will be certainly be a topic when the committee meets later this month during the Final Four in Atlanta. Frederick and other past members of the committee will attend.

Involving former committee members Frederick calls the group of 25 or 30 "alumni" in the group's debriefing began under Frederick's watch. It all started in 1995 with a brunch and a discussion period and has evolved into a luncheon with a meeting afterward.

In other words, once a member of the NCAA Selection Committee always a member of the NCAA Selection Committee.

This year committee alums can query chair Lee Fowler about who wailed the loudest after the bracket was announced.

"Very rarely do they complain about seedings," Frederick said. "The ones who aren't chosen are the ones you hear from the most."

Like in 1995 when Georgia Tech was left out of the field.

"That was my first year as chair and I probably got a hundred e-mails and 20 phone calls and about 50 letters from Georgia Tech people," Frederick said.

Frederick, who resigned as Kansas AD last May after 14 years in the post, remains a member of two active NCAA committees. His tenure as chair of the committee on sportsmanship and ethical conduct will end in September, but he's an ongoing member of the committee on basketball issues.

Meanwhile, Frederick teaches two sports administration classes each semester in the School of Education. This semester he has 65 students in a sports marketing undergraduate class and 38 in a sports administration graduate class.

At the same time, the man who hired an obscure North Carolina assistant coach to be the Jayhawks' head coach back in 1988, remains a KU basketball booster. He was spotted wearing a Jayhawk sweatshirt during the Big 12 tournament and he'll be in the KU section at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Thursday night.

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