March Madness Expansion

After a full two weeks of Olympics, the calendar shifts to March which means it is time to dust of the pencils and fill out the brackets. Coming into the tournament the majority of the commentary has not been on bubble teams, seeding, or mid-majors (even though it does receive its fair share), it has been on expanding the tournament. On the Sports Illustrated website today, Stewart Mandel examines the issue of expansion.

From my perspective, a couple of interesting things appear in this article. First is the fact that after this season, the NCAA can opt out of its current contract with CBS with no penalty. From the article, the NCAA has sent out a survey to media companies trying to gauge their interest in expansion. In addition, if the NCAA does not opt out now the market is going to be saturated in 2013 with networks bidding on Monday Night Football, MLB, and Olympics. As a result, the NCAA may not get as much money as it would like to get from the March Madness contract.

The second interesting item I see from the article is in regards to the NIT. The NCAA also owns the NIT tournament. The current TV deal for the NIT expires after this season and NCAA officials are unsure about what it wants to do with the tournament.

What this article does not talk about is the presence of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) in the postseason landscape. For those who do not know, the CBI began a couple of years ago by the Gazelle Group.  The group’s goal was to compete with the NIT for the teams that did not make the NCAA tournament.  By all accounts, they have not been successful in luring teams from the NIT tournament.  However, the tournament is still around and is the only postseason tournament not owned by the NCAA.  If the NCAA does expand the March Madness field and keeps the current NIT tournament,  it could also be an attempt to drive the CBI out of the market since the teams the CBI will be selecting from will be of lower quality than the current CBI tourney teams.  This will be something to monitor in the coming months.

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