Faceoff- NCAA tournament Expansion: Expanding field lead to increased excitement

By By: joe Haynes-Sports Editor

Winston Churchill once said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction,” and although he might not have been talking about the NCAA tournament, the principle still applies.

The topic of changing the NCAA basketball tournament from a field of 65 teams to a field of 96 teams has been brought up recently, and immediately, many people began to defend the current format and fight the change. However, much good can come out of expanding the tournaments, with one of the biggest reasons being money.

The revenue raised from playing additional tournament games will not all be pocketed by the NCAA, but instead fed back into the schools. According to a March 26 Columbus Dispatch article, conferences earn money for not only every team of theirs in the tournament, but wins by those teams as well. Expanding the tournament will give smaller conferences a better chance to earn money from the tournament.

Also, for smaller schools, a larger tournament will mean more opportunity— to be able to compete, but also the opportunity to win games. Often times, smaller schools are plagued with low seeds and must play against powerhouse schools in the first round, giving them little to no shot of even winning a game. By adding 32 games, teams that would initially have been considered underdogs in the first round will be given a chance to play as a favorite.

A team like Cornell got its first win ever in the tournament this year. Winning a first round game may not bring the same excitement to the school as beating fifth-seed Temple and fourth -seed Wisconsin, but it wouldn’t take them 70 years to finally get a win.

Expanding the tournament also gives fans of smaller schools a better chance to watch their team’s games. The games with the larger schools often have TV priority under the current format, but the extra two days will give all those teams a chance to play on national television.
Another pro of the new format is that the TV structure could be modified. CBS currently owns the rights to all 64 tournament games, but the expansion would allow them to sell some games to ESPN and its family of networks. The extra channels will allow easier viewing of any particular game, and not restrict the viewers to what CBS wants to show.

My counterpart will quickly say that the tournament is perfect the way it is, and expanding it would ruin the atmosphere that the current tournament provides. However, since the tournaments creation in 1939, the field of teams has been expanded ten times, starting at eight teams and only in 1985 reaching 65. If change was always opposed as it is now, the tournament would be one-eighth of its current format.

All in all, an expansion to 96 teams would only benefit the tournament by creating more excitement than what is already there.