The depressing news regarding the NCAA tournament just keeps getting worse.
Now that ESPN has offered up a mega-sized check for an expanded field of 96, CBS and corporate cable partner Turner has countered with an even bigger check to keep the tournament. Sadly, that offer too, is predicated on marching ahead with expansion.
But wait, how’s this for sucks?
“If CBS and Turner do get the rights to the tournament, the games would be shown on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV, with CBS and Turner alternating rights to the Final Four.”
How’s THAT for an express train to sports irrelevance?
Coming up here on TruTV, following “Scariest Police Chases 9”, it’s Louisiana Tech vs. Iona!
I’m sure NCAA executives will be told by the TV people that “of course, everybody knows what channel TNT and TBS are!” They’ll be spun the idea that cable vs. network is a non-factor in today’s 500+ channel FIOS/Satellite/Digital cable world.
I firmly believe they are wrong on that front. I believe that the NCAA tournament enjoys such popularity because of its mainstream nature. It is accessible to all, the pool sheets fit on a single page, and you don’t need to go hunting for “where-the-*&%#-is-TruTV!” or ask your buddy at work “is this year a Turner Final Four, or CBS?”
Given the lesser of two poisons, I would rather it be on ESPN, despite the annoyance of one Richard Vitale. At least ESPN cross-promotes and flogs the living hell out of their own play-by-play properties. Giving over your tournament to the CBS/Turner bid, would be like throwing it through a woodchipper and scattering it to the wind.
But hey, the checks will start cashing right away, and that’s apparently all they care about.
I had this argument with Maryland color analyst on radio Chris Knoche. I said crabbily: “Well, I hope you and your people are happy. You’ve ruined the greatest sporting event on earth.”
He testily replied that funding the multitude of NCAA championships was the most important part of this expansion.
To which I asked the impertinent question: “Do ALL sports NEED an actual national championship sanctioned and paid for by the NCAA?”
I also asked: “Before CBS started writing such huge checks for March Madness, how did some of these lesser championships get funded?”
Answer: they weren’t.
Me: Good, then maybe if they can’t self-fund, they should go back to not happening.
Cruel? Hardass? Insensitive?
Maybe. Whatever. I don’t care.
Someday, the NCAA will wake up to the realization that an expanded super tournament has drained all the juice the thing once had. It will fully understand the devastation it has wreaked on regular season meaning. It will be shocked at how quickly it falls from the mountaintop of fan passion, to the gutter of just another over-leveraged commercial monstrosity.
We know this: the fans don’t want it. And the fans are the customers. Is anybody listening? Apparently not. The NCAA suits know best. Or so they think.
Here’s a nugget to chew on from the polling firm “Public Opinion Strategies.”
In a survey released yesterday by Public Opinion Strategies, a solid majority (59%) of basketball fans oppose expanding the NCAA tournament from a 64 team tournament to a 96 team tournament. Just 29% of college basketball fans support expansion and ten percent are undecided.
The survey was conducted April 11-13 among 800 likely 2010 voters and 40% of those interviewed identified themselves as college basketball fans.
Among all voters, the results are 20% total favor/46% total oppose. College basketball fans feel strongly about the proposal because intensity is twice is high among opponents (38% strongly oppose) than supporters (16% strongly favor), which will hopefully serve as a warning sign for NCAA officials.