11.4.10

COORDINATION FAILURE. New York Times columnist Albert Hunt (via University Diaries) raises a principled objection to the expansion of the basketball tournament.
This would encourage mediocrity and make more money. The latter is the dominant concern of too many leaders of higher education; it trumps the academic interests of the players and institutions and the desires of fans, whether it’s the basketball tournament’s expansion or the insistence on keeping the antiquated football bowl game schedule.
Oh, please. It's amateur sport. It has nothing to do with money. It may not encourage mediocrity: coaches who are hoping to hold onto their jobs a bit longer by making the expanded tournament are likely to be disappointed. (The proliferation of archival journals for not-very-good research doesn't produce more pathbreaking research either.) The new format will probably lose money. And USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti identifies a constituency that is not going to like the new format, with 32 play-in games and 32 byes.

Among the proposals sure to run into trouble, when this goes from committee meeting to real life, is handing byes to the top 32 teams.

Let's return to the 1980s, when there were 48 teams. The top 16 were given byes. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then those teams started dropping like confetti in their first games. Turned out a bye wasn't a reward, but a liability. The high seeds atrophied in idle, while the lower seeds kept their edge with a tournament game.

Coaches complained, of course. So the NCAA moved to 64 teams; enough room for the powerhouses, and Cornell. Everyone on the same page. Bingo. The Mona Lisa of postseason formats.

Which, Messrs. Hunt and Lopresti agree, the governing body is bent on destroying, in the expectation of additional money that is not likely to be forthcoming.

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