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Kevin Schnepf, Published December 13 2009

Schnepf: Dear NCAA: Please fix football, not basketball

Here’s something that makes as much sense as driving your Escalade into a fire hydrant: NCAA tournament expansion talks back in the picture.

We’re talking about the NCAA men’s basketball tournament here – one of the most lucrative, most watched and most hyped events in this country. You know. March Madness. The Big Dance. One Shining Moment.

Evidently, whoever is proposing expansion wants to take the luster off this moment. Why mess with a good thing? If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The NCAA is looking at the wrong sport. If anything needs fixing, it’s college football – not college basketball. Instead of wasting its time talking about expanding the 65-team basketball tournament, why doesn’t the NCAA – once and for all – talk about implementing a playoff system for college football?

We all know the answer. Money.

From the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, college football delivers money-spending fans to the more than 30 cities that host bowls. So while the players from Texas and Alabama prepare for a national championship game for five weeks (plenty of time for a 16-team playoff), we get this:

- The Humanitarian Bowl. What’s humane about watching

7-5 Bowling Green play 7-5 Idaho?

- The Insight Bowl. This should be called the Ignorance Bowl when you have Punky Brewster’s 6-6 Minnesota Gophers playing 6-6 Iowa State. (If I remember correctly, South Dakota State nearly beat the Gophers and our 3-8 Bison hung with Iowa State).

- The International Bowl. 7-5 South Florida and 7-5 Northern Illinois get to travel to Toronto. It’s like Michael Scott describing his business trip to Winnipeg as traveling to a foreign country.

- GMAC Bowl. Financing a game pitting Central Michigan against Troy State is riskier than allowing me to purchase at Bentley.

- In the 34 bowl games that will bombard us for the next month, there will be eight 6-6 teams and 15 7-5 teams. I’d sooner watch a head-bobbing Dick Vitale yell ‘baby’ for five weeks.

Which brings us to these possible expansion options for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament: From 65 to 68 in which eight teams would play for the four 16 seeds; from 65 to 80 or from 65 to 96.

Evidently, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim must have some clout after raising a stink in 2007 when his team didn’t make the tournament field. But, ironically, money may have more clout in keeping March Madness the way it is.

Do you really think the NCAA would put its $6 billion TV contract in jeopardy by messing with a good thing? Do you think officials from high-power conferences like the Big East, ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 would want the value of their money-making postseason tournaments damaged with the expansion of the Big Dance?

Let’s hope not. Meanwhile, we can get excited about that Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549