From a guy who says this – “March Madness is quite simply the gold standard to which all other American team-sport postseasons are held. (Ask college football.)” – comes this:
All postseasons expand; authentically exciting postseasons expand exponentially
The college basketball Story of the Decade has clearly been this month’s discussion of expanding the NCAA tournament field to 96 teams. Whether the final number turns out to be 96 or 128 or something else, I think it’s next to inevitable that the field will indeed grow. Networks love postseason sports because they draw large DVR-impervious and demographically-attractive audiences. The more hours of this content the networks (old-school or cable) can get the happier they are, and Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA have all been delighted to inflate their postseasons accordingly over the past two decades. Now it’s the NCAA’s turn, and when a primal force of sports-business nature like this is combined with a warm and fuzzy but no less true statement like “it will mean more mid-majors get in,” resistance is futile. Watch.
… By late afternoon the expected sound bite from NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen had arrived: “Nothing is a done deal.” Shaheen also said that his organization is merely conducting “due diligence” and that the NCAA has to “look at what our membership wants.”
What the NCAA’s membership wants is more teams getting into the tournament and more money in their pockets. Expanding the field satisfies both wants. Due diligence requires looking at all contingencies, but if Ourand and Smith are correct none of the scenarios that the NCAA is currently reviewing involve what is usually the baseline course of action, the status quo…
And this, too:
… Expanding the field to 96 teams means I’ll be watching along with even more of those strange beings known as casual fans, interlopers from no fewer than 31 additional universities who will suddenly be much more interested in the tournament. If the NCAA and, more importantly, the networks thought for a moment that yesterday’s outrage might actually translate into reduced viewership, this idea would be dead on arrival. But they don’t think that’s true, and history backs them up. Since the NCAA tournament went to a 64-team format in 1985, the other American team sports have expanded their postseasons to find that viewers, for all their churlish talk of ”devaluing the regular season,” are there waiting for them in force and ready to watch ads when championships are at stake.
What to take from this?
- TV drives the postseason more than any other force known to man, blogger or commenter.
- The NCAA is just as money hungry as the next organization. Maybe more so than the BCS conferences, because it has more mouths to feed.
- The postseason – any postseason – grows for one primary reason, and it ain’t “settling it on the field”.
- As long as “we’ll watch” outweighs “that’s too much” (and based on what we see with other sports, that would mean a postseason that includes about a third of the participants), brushing aside concerns about the risk of an expanded playoff in D-1 football is little more than wishful thinking.