Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If It Ain't Broke...

I realize that business owners want to make a profit; being a business major, I understand this. Without profit, the business is bound to run into a tough situation. However, when the motivation for profit interferes with the overall integrity and tradition of the business, there is an issue. According to my business textbook, this commitment to the betterment of the community as a whole is often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. However, though I am typically a fan of NCAA basketball, I wish that they would ignore the profit motivation that seems to be pervading their judgment recently and focus on their CSR which is to provide the best basketball experience for their fans.

Looking at the column that was written earlier today on NBC Los Angeles, I was absolutely shocked to find out that the NCAA tournament is very close to expanding the tournament field to 96 teams as opposed to the traditional 65. 31 more teams will be dancing in March if this deal goes down as several sources are predicting it will. What's wrong with this you might ask? First of all, the NCAA tournament is supposed to be a matchup of the best of the best. Granted, there are always teams on the proverbial bubble who should be in but aren't. However, do any of these themes on the bubble have the potential to seriously contend for the national championship? As much as I love a good Cinderella story, realistically, the lowest seed ever to win a national championship was a number eight seed, which was Villanova in 1985 according to the always reliable Wikipedia. This means that a team in the bottom half of a regional bracket has never won or even made the national championship. Odds are, many of these 31 new entrants would be of a similar caliber and probably have no chance of making a serious run at the national championship. Therefore, what difference would these teams make? I'll tell you what difference it would make; it would make a lot more money for the NCAA. The amazing number of viewers who watch these games would only be multiplied by the fact that there would be more games to watch. According to the article I saw on NBC, the first round of the tournament will consist of seeds 9 to 24 competing for the right to play the one through eight seeds. This would create many more games; as opposed to the 64 games there are currently including the play in game, there would now be 95 games as the new round of "play in" winners would then meet up with the top eight teams from each bracket which would be reminiscent of the 64 team field we have right now. Typically, I say that more basketball is a great thing, and it is. However, what significance will the season have if approximately one third of all teams get in? All a team in a highly competitive conference would need to do is go .500 to all but guarantee a spot in the field. However, I think we will still have many of the same problems of the underrepresentation of mid-major teams. Many teams will still get in based on reputation; the Selection Committee is just as biased as many of us fans.

The added revenue for the NCAA seems to be a good enough reason for the NCAA to expand the field. However, they need to remember that their first responsibility is to provide the best experience for their fans. Why mess with the system? It already draws millions of viewers every year and has become one of the most popular sporting events of the year. After all, how many events do you know that have the power to alter national activity for a whole month?

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