The cranky dude’s faith is touching.

There is so much juicy goodness in John Feinstein’s latest whine about the coming expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that I hardly know where to start.

How about here?

… With 96 teams, the regular season is devalued because many mediocre teams will be rewarded with NCAA bids. If, as expected, regular season conference champions receive automatic berths, a lot of the magic of the conference tournaments in the so-called “one-bid” leagues will go away.

Nah, nah, nobody who’s in favor of a playoff thinks much of that devalue-the-regular-stuff thing anyway.

Well, then, what about this?

Look, this is about money and everyone knows it. Shaheen even made indirect reference to that when he talked about 88 other championships the NCAA conducts and the need to protect their financial futures. That protection comes from squeezing every possible dollar out of men’s basketball. It was almost comical when someone asked if expansion was being contemplated for the women’s tournament. The women’s tournament costs money, so it isn’t going to be expanded anytime soon.

We’re getting warmer now.  This is, of course, the reason that any postseason format expands, as much as you “settle it on the field” folks would like to argue otherwise.

But any hope that Feinstein was going to remain intellectually consistent on this topic – a faint hope, to be sure – is dashed in his penultimate paragraph.

… The bottom line is, of course, the bottom line. The tournament is going to expand, “student-athletes” will miss more class time, there won’t be a football playoff, college basketball will still be a great game and the tournament itself will still be great fun, because it’s so good even the NCAA suits can’t destroy it.

Maybe he’ll sing a different tune when they expand to 128.  Oh, and bonus points for the gratuitous college football reference, John.  It’s hard to believe after reading the rest of your post that the BCS suits don’t jump up and institute a 16-school playoff tomorrow.  Well played, sir.


UPDATE: Dan Shanoff is the anti-Feinstein (that’s a compliment, Dan).  His reasons why the March Madness-expansion scare talk is overblown are coherent and sensible.  Like this –

*”It devalues the regular season!” Actually, you’d have to say FURTHER devalues the regular season, because the ascension of the 64-team tournament devalued the regular season a long time ago.

The reality is that most fans don’t pay attention to college basketball until March anyway. And, aside from the die-hard fans who make up about 5 percent of the fans who follow March Madness, those that do tune in before March are watching marquee games between powerhouse teams whose inclusion in the NCAA Tournament field isn’t in doubt.

If anything, people watch before March to get a sneak peek of teams they should be betting on IN March. And with 32 more teams, that means that fans who want to know the field have to watch that much regular-season basketball. Meanwhile, the chance to earn a bye gets expanded beyond the four 1-seeds to the Top 32 teams in the country — something worth playing for in January and February.

(And, yes, there will still even be a “Bubble” — it just slides down the list. It is arguable whether the incessant Bubble talk is even good for the sport. And don’t argue about “quality”; the Bubble has never been about “good/bad” — just “in/out.”)

That’s not where I want college football going, though.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

18 responses to “The cranky dude’s faith is touching.

  1. Well played sir. I’ve been on your team for a while regarding a playoff. Keep fighting the good fight.


  2. Scorpio Jones, III

    Wowie, zowie, I bet Big Mike could justify expanding the tournament to all the teams that win three or more games during the meaningless regular season.

    Think of all the planes he could rent with the extra money.


  3. adam

    I read this blog daily and throw in a comment here or there, but have stayed out of the playoff debate.

    Even though this post is focused on expanding the basketball tourney, it definitely feels like another “no football playoff” post. And I’m cool with that; I like reading differing opinions. Anyway, I do want a playoff, and it seems like the reason I have is rarely (if ever) mentioned. It’s the same reason I like the basketball tourney with little concern for the size of the field. I love the opportunity for great teams to face each other. I want to see that UGA/USC game from 07 happen. I know there won’t be great match ups every time and that the tournament wouldn’t guarantee them in any way. But there’s pretty much no chance for that to happen in th BCS. Few teams want to schedule other great teams. A playoff could lead to some really great games that we would never see otherwise. I imagine I’m not the only college football fan that would love to see something like that happen.

    (sorry if I have any weird typos – I’m waiting on class and posting from my phone)


    • Adam, a couple of things:

      First, I’m not – I’m not! – against a D-1 football playoff. What I am, though, is extremely concerned about the damage that I believe an extended playoff would do to college football’s greatest asset, its regular season. That’s why I find the discussion about March Madness expanding by 50% instructive.

      Second, there are ways to encourage more great match ups without the need for a large playoff. Ban regular season games against 1-AA opponents. Set a strength-of-schedule threshold for postseason eligibility.

      I fear a cure that’s worse than the disease.


      • Thanks for putting it out there Senator. I feel most people misunderstand our logic when using the basketball tournament as an example of the concerns we hold over what could happen regarding the regular season in football should an extended playoff happen. The fact that we’re against an extended playoff doesn’t necessarily make us against a playoff in general. I just want some form of assurance that the greatest regular season in American sport won’t be ruined for the sake of creating a “fair and equitable” solution to solving the question of who’s the best team in college football and I don’t believe the pro-playoff crowd has a unified response to our concerns other than “if it was good enough for grandpa, it must be good enough for you” and “but it’s the only fair way…”. Bring me a unified plan for a playoff that makes sense, that is likely to be approved by those in charge, and grants us that assurance that the playoff will never expand large enough to marginalize the regular season and then we can talk. Obviously I’m skeptical that these requirements can be met because every single sport with a playoff has expanded to the point of marginalizing the regular season.

        All that said, I’m still skeptical that a playoff really solves that problem (cough *NY Giants/Arizona Cardinals/Florida Marlins/Kansas losing to Northern Iowa*, cough), but it’s hard to envision another way to settle it without relying on computers or voters. I only mention Kansas because who in their right mind honestly believes that Kansas and Kentucky weren’t two of the top three teams for the entire year? They happened to have one off-night and that’s the difference between being a potential national champion and being an afterthought. Of course it’s the upsets that make the NCAA tournament so compelling to watch, but I’d be hard-pressed to believe that the remaining four teams would be considered the four best teams for the entire college basketball season. They just happen to be the four that have won 4 games in a row in March rather than back in December. But that’s another argument for another day…

        At this point I’m in favor of two possible solutions:
        (A) We blow up the BCS and go back to the old bowl system where games on January 1st used to mean something. I would argue the BCS and the Bowl Coalition before it have done more to flame the playoff arguments than since the title game is basically a limited playoff now.
        (B) The full fledged 8-10 power conferences after realignment playoff with only conference champs invited.

        Anyways, thanks for posting that. I just find it tiring that playoff supporters assume one is against a playoff because of concerns of expansion.


        • adam

          didn’t mean any offense by phrasing it like that. i do appreciate those concerns – i just don’t share them. the regular season will not be devalued at all in my eyes with a 16 team or 8 team playoff. i’m still gonna love every georgia game and every big game around.


      • adam

        thanks for the reply, senator. wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth, i realize your objection is more with an extended playoff and the impact it has on the regular season. i’ve seen some very attractive ideas though as far as playoff proposals go.

        but honestly… i just want to see more good games. personally, i would look at the playoffs as an extension of the season (not just regular vs. post-season). getting rid of games vs. 1-AA teams would be great. though, i doubt 1-AA AD’s would agree with us.

        i’m not sure, however, that there is any way, even with a required SoS, to create more big match ups (or at least not the ones i’m talking about). teams will still be hesitant to schedule games they could lose on a big national stage. some teams may have a schedule difficult enough as is and then would have no incentive to find create a compelling match up just for my/our enjoyment. i like the collision course side of a playoff. i want to see great teams playing great teams, and we see very little of that right now. alabama vs texas in the NT game was good. alabama vs florida in the SECCG was great.

        you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be great to see boise state go try to earn its rep in big stadiums. miami and michigan playing each other (if they get back to being good). fsu playing some more SEC games. pac-10 and big 10 and big 12 teams seeing SEC teams at home and away. a 16 team playoff (or maybe even an 8) would create some very interesting match ups.

        and if you can figure out a way to make those happen in the regular season all over the country with some degree of regularity… you’ve got my vote for head of the ncaa.


    • It’s also okay to be conflicted on this topic. To me, it’s hard to see how anyone could be so staunchly set one way or the other. Some days I wish there was a playoff and other days I’m glad that a potential Vandy upset of Tennessee could turn the whole conference on its ear. Ah, the duality of humankind.


  4. You’re right to point out that the NCAA’s relentless expansion of the basketball tourney (which seriously had me dragging and depressed all damn day yesterday) is reason to fear for the potential football version.

    Bt that doesn’t change the fact that Feinstein, much as I dislike his sniveling approach, is basically correct here. Auto-bids for regular season champions WILL absolutely gut Championship Week, something I and thousands of other mid-major fans hold very, very dear. That the NCAA will wipe away a week of class time for teams advancing to the second week while continuing to chant “no more missed class!” as a reason to hold off on football proposals IS a stunning example of hypocrisy. That the NCAA is doing this out of naked greed at the cost of their supposed ideals IS worth pointing out. Feinstein deserves to be pilloried more often than not, but I don’t think this is one of those times.

    As for Shanoff, he’s right that the expanded tourney won’t do much to devalue the regular season more than it already is; in fact, if the automatic bid for regular season champions is in play, it will make the regular season dramatically MORE important in one-bid (or two-bid) leagues. (This is the one positive I’m pulling out of this disaster, and frankly I’ll believe the NCAA will risk giving the SWAC and NEC two bids–regular season and conference tourney–the moment I see it and not a moment before.) What he’s missing is that serious college hoops fans could stomach that devaluation in exchange for having the most exciting, most interesting, just-plain-best postseason in American sports. But if there’s no worthwhile regular season AND a watered-down half-assed tourney where earning a bid means nothing–and that’s going to be the case for a majority of major-conference teams–then what the hell’s the point?


    • That the NCAA will wipe away a week of class time for teams advancing to the second week while continuing to chant “no more missed class!” as a reason to hold off on football proposals IS a stunning example of hypocrisy. That the NCAA is doing this out of naked greed at the cost of their supposed ideals IS worth pointing out.

      I absolutely, totally agree 100%.

      Which makes those who call for the NCAA to assume control over the D-1 football postseason look like blithering idiots. Well, in the case of folks like Joe Barton, even bigger blithering idiots…


  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    Someone please explain to me how, with the current scholarship limit, how any team could be at its best for an end-of-the-season playoff of any kind.

    Not real strong one way or t’other, but nobody seems to want to deal with this central issue when talking about extending the season.

    Does the scholarship limit not matter?


    • JMart

      The lower division schools have fewer scholarships than D-1. Somehow, they’re still able to field a team to decide a real championship.

      Btw, I H-A-T-E this basketball tourney expansion idea. There simply aren’t 100 tournament worthy teams. The only way this makes sense is that it is all about MONEY.


  6. Vious

    To this day, nobody has been able to tell me what is wrong with an 8-team playoff

    Take the BCS Conferences Winners and allow the highest BCS ranked non-winners (2 or 3) to be included

    Use BCS games as the playoffs

    That means teams must still win AS MUCH AS THEY CAN during the regular season…..


    • kckd

      I think the Senator would say there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s the money factor that will eventually cause expansion to a 16 team, 24 team, 32 team playoff.

      I personally can’t see it getting much beyond 16 unless they decide to shorten the regular season and I don’t think they’ll ever do that. But it is a good point the Senator makes with that one.


  7. kckd

    How devalued are the bowl games? Over Half of the teams in IA make one. Even if the tourney expanded to 96, it wouldn’t come close to the percentage of college football teams who can play in bowls compared to those who can’t.


    • Except for the title game, bowls aren’t playoff games. You’re comparing apples and oranges.


      • kckd

        Not really, It is the postseason and they are seen as an accomplishment of some sort. They are not a playoff, but they supposed to say you had a good year of football. So average is good I guess.