Outside the NCAA, the expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament from 64 to 96 teams – once just a thought, now close to inevitable – has little support, if any.
Since April 1, when the NCAA outlined a plan for how it would expand the tournament, media personalities, fans and just about everyone has lambasted the notion of adding 32 teams to a tournament that is already one-of-a-kind and that currently generates $700 million for the NCAA, according to John Feinstein’s Washington Post column.
What reason could there be to mess with an incredibly popular tournament that rakes in a ton of money? More money, of course.
That’s the only reason anyone can come up with. More teams equal more games which equals more money. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil stated the obvious in a column the day Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's vice president for basketball and business strategies, discussed plans for an expanded tournament. But she added that by wanting to ditch the current format, the NCAA shows it doesn’t care about fans, most of whom feel the tournament is ideal now.
A poll of almost 200,000 fans conducted by ESPN’s SportsNation found 82 percent of fans are against expanding the tournament to 96 teams. Arguments against expanding the field – more teams would mean less quality; undeserving teams would qualify; the regular season would lose significance. And, proof being this year's tournament that ended Monday with the exciting Duke-Butler final, the tournament is perfect as is.
The only argument for expansion seems to be money. Feinstein writes that the NCAA relies on money generated by the basketball tournament to fund a large chunk of its other sports.
The NCAA said it likes the idea of more athletes getting to experience the tournament. The counter-argument: What will it really mean if almost 100 teams get in?
Should the NCAA expand the men’s basketball tournament from 64 to 96 teams? Are there benefits other than increased revenue?