Originally published April 22, 2010 at 11:36a.m., updated April 23, 2010 at 12:00a.m.
New York Bill Self and several of his coaching comrades approve of the NCAA’s decision to expand the NCAA Tournament from 65 to 68 teams, starting next season.
“I think expanding to 68 teams is good for our sport. Many people thought it would go to 96 teams, but this will be a good way to see if the tournament needs to move toward 96 teams,” Self, Kansas University’s seventh-year coach, said Thursday after the NCAA announced a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting that will begin with an expanded NCAA Tourney in March.
Every game will be broadcast live nationally for the first time in the tournament’s 73-year history. No decision has yet been made on how teams 61 through 68 will be slotted and whether they will be the last eight teams in the field, or the type of squads that occupied the one play-in game the past several years.
“I like the fact that every game will be televised in its entirety. I think that is very good for college basketball," Self said.
Self had said he did not think expanding the tourney to 96 teams was necessarily a good idea.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who was adamant in wanting 96 squads, is OK with 68.
“As a coach, I’d like to see more people get in, but 68 is a good step and the easiest way to have the least amount of turmoil,” Boeheim said. “It’s better than nothing.”
The NCAA had been criticized for all the talk about expanding the field to 96 because of additional missed class time.
“I really was torn myself with what to do, so taking the field to 68 seems like a good step,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams,. “This will give them time to decide if this is just an intermediate step to a larger event or not. There are so many good teams, and adding three more helps get some of them in the bracket without tarnishing the specialness of the tournament.”
Noted Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski: “With the addition of three more teams to the field, the basic structure of the tournament will not be impacted significantly in the foreseeable future. As a coach, I am very pleased with this result.”
Ninety six teams had been a source of concern for many coaches.
“There is reason to talk about expansion because there’s never been this many good teams as there are now, and parity has never been better at this level than it is now,” Self said.
“Expanding to 96 like there’s been talk about, I don’t see the real benefit of that. If it (expansion) should occur, it should occur to 68 or 72 and maybe have additional play-in type games. I love the tournament the way it is, but I don’t think we should be so shortsighted that it isn’t possible to make it better. It was great at 32, 48 and 54, 65. It’s always gotten better after expansion. I’m just not sure 96 is the answer. For coaches’ job security, that’d be great. As a fan, I don’t know if it’s great for our tournament. I think we should go with what’s best for our tournament.”
In UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s mind, 65 teams was enough.
“There will be more pressure now on teams to make it, but I like the idea of it being special as opposed to not. I’m concerned with messing with something that’s been so good,” Calhoun said.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto said a bigger field isn’t necessarily in the future.
“Everyone says to me it seems like it’s inevitable, but nobody I’ve talked to embraces it,” he said of a 96-team field. “So why is it inevitable?”
This plan now goes to the NCAA Board of Directors next Thursday to approve this plan that is likely to add three more opening-round games — one in each region — to the one that has been played since 2001.
As far as the TV/money portion of this story, the previous TV deal, which gave CBS the broadcast rights for $6 billion over 11 years, would have expired in three years. Both sides had opt-out clauses that had to be exercised by July 31. The NCAAs hope was to create a bidding war and strike a lucrative deal.
CBS Sports won the war, beating out at least an offer from ESPN. What’s new is that CBS will share broadcast rights with Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and its stable of cable channels — TNT, TBS and truTV — from 2011 through 2024.
The NCAA won, too: The new deal will provide an average of $740 million per year that will returned to conferences and schools.