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NCAA Madness and Dolla, dolla, bills Y’all…

In honor of the start of the MLB season, I was planning on making this a baseball only weekend for the blog, but then two things happened, one stormy weather knocked out power and internet for most of yesterday, essentially disabling my efforts to write multiple baseball columns, and two… the NCAA (seemingly) made another money grab decision.

I could, and at some point probably will, write a column all about the hypocrisy represented by the NCAA, which exploits young men for incredible profits, while also hanging those same meal tickets out to dry for the slightest violation (for more see James Paxton’s situation with Kentucky). The absurdity of the league banning student-athletes from hiring representation actually strikes me as a violation of the student’s rights. On top of which, while I’m all in favor of amateur athletics, I can’t for the life of me figure out why a player can’t put his name into the NBA draft, hire an advisor to ensure that his interests are being met, be drafted 36th, negotiate with a team, decide that economically it makes more sense for him to return to school, and come back to play college hoops again. Until he steps on a court, or field, to play professionally, his amateur status should be maintained.

Anyhow, that’s an argument for another day. What bothers me here and now, is this “proposal” to expand the field of March Madness to 96. Without mincing words, I hate everything about this idea. I hate that the coaches are in favour of it, because they believe it will create more job security. Uhmmm… no Frank, it just makes reaching the tournament less meaningful. Suddenly your bosses will require you to be something like a top eight seed instead of just qualifying. It doesn’t lessen your job expectations, it just changes the parameters.

I hate that whenever a playoff is discussed in NCAA football, one of the excuses against such a construct is that it would impact student education, but here the NCAA is about to implement a change that would keep more than 500 students out of classrooms for much of the second half of March. On top of which, I hate that NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen is seemingly so smugly dense that he cannot pick up the nuance of John Junior Feinstein making just that point.

I understand that the tournament has gone from 16 to 32 to 64 and that each time opponents of expansion complained that it was diluting what was a perfect field, but I hate that the proposed expansion is diluting what is a perfect field. I know that this season is one shinning beacon of how parity has come to NCAA basketball, but lets hold our horses here for a second. We have still yet to watch a 16 seed upset a one seed, only four 15s have knocked off twos, only two 14 seeds have made the Sweet Sixteen, and no team lower than an twelve has made the Elite Eight, where they promptly lost.

LSU in 1986 and George Mason in 2006 are the only 11s to break into the Final Four and they were twenty years apart. Finally, Villanova, an eighth seed in 1985, remains the lowest ranked team to win the whole enchilada. So, lets go a little easy on the parity talk. If you think about it, the Final Four this year is actually pretty chalky, you have perennial Michigan State, Bob Huggins coached West Virginia, and a little heard of basketball institution known as Duke. So, uhmmm… yeah! Yes, Butler is a surprise Final Four team, but they’re a five seed, which means that they were no worse than 20th in the country. So it’s not really as though we are talking about Arkansas-Pine Bluff here.

Finally, I hate that whatever sugar they coat this decision with, the only reason for the NCAA to make this move, just like the only reason that the NFL would expand their regular season from 16 to 18 games, is the big shinny dollar. And, because they are running the biggest monopolized racket going, it’s all money that will be funneled straight into the pocket of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. So, please Shaheen, just stop. Stop talking. Stop planning. Stop bullying student-athletes. Stop counting your money under the table with one hand while holding a microphone espousing the virtues of a virtue-less idea in the other… but mostly, just stop this expansion, because it truly is madness.

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