Joe Lunardi, the founder of what we have come to know as “Bracketology,” recently wrote a piece for the ESPN.com Insider section (well worth it to subscribe/not only read this article in full but follow Joe all year thereafter) on potential avenues March Madness could go down once college football determines what it wants to become.
He provides four options with “odds”:
1. Status Quo – 40 percent.
2. 96 Teams – 30 percent.
3. BCS Teams Only – 20 percent.
4. Hybrid – 10 percent.
Since the ink is barely dry on the Turner/CBS TV deal the NCAA – as Joe puts it – has “14 years and 11 billion good reasons to keep things just the way they are.” This of course is assuming the NCAA even survives…which as he notes is not a given.
If it does…the “96 Teams” scenario might be a way for the NCAA to ward off extinction in the future. “It’s a possible hedge against a College Football Association-type defection in college basketball.” It certainly sounded like we were headed there last season, agreed? “We may never know how close this was to happening for the 2010-11 season. We do know that many key constituencies were briefed, including the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and that bracketing and scheduling models were in place.”
“BCS Teams Only” is Joe’s concern all-out class warfare will finally dictate four super-conferences with 16 teams…their respective tournaments would be for seeding purposes and the balance of programs become a lesser entity like Division II, III, etc. Since the NCAA is making noise about offering conferences the opportunity to offer cash to athletes…there is the distinct possibility many smaller profile programs finally run out of money, patience, etc. “It may be that only BCS-type schools choose to ante up and the rest make a semivoluntary decision to withdraw from the highest level of competition.”
A “Hybrid” is where Joe envisions a potential big-time college football split from the NCAA…but smaller profile programs are still incorporated. “The end result is a football playoff for those who invest at the highest level and a basketball tournament that excludes no school with a reasonable chance to compete and advance. Hey, a man can dream, right?”
Joe concludes, “If we’ve learned anything during this most recent wave of realignment, it’s that common sense went out the window sometime around the use of the leather helmet.”
One thing is certain in these uncertain times. One of sports’ premier events will at the very least get a review for change. Again. Soon.
Enjoy this year’s tournament folks. Next year’s might look a little different…