By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Most aspects of our shallow culture -- sports or otherwise -- are dictated by a bigger-is-better or a more-is-better mentality. And college basketball is no exception.
Fans, both knowledgeable and casual, largely will agree that March Madness is the best sporting event every year. Yet we think we need to change it.
That "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a tiresome cliche doesn't make it inaccurate. The NCAA Tournament is certainly the best sporting event in America, and is also decisively effective at achieving its real purpose of determining a national champion.
That pointless Tuesday night play-in game they've been playing for a decade or so is a waste of time, so why add four more games under the 68-team model? Nobody tries to hide the fact that tournament expansion is under consideration for one purpose only: to increase revenue. And under tentative proposals described at Thursday's Final Four press conference, many of those entities referred to by the NCAA as "student-athletes" will miss even more school than they already do.
I'm not so naive that I hate everything that is profitable. It's great that the NCAA makes as much money as it does for itself and its member institutions via the tournament. But the more you tinker with it, the more you make it clear that the association's chief mission is to get rich, that a successful tournament is just icing on the cake. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
The minute the NCAA expands the field in the name of profitability and asks players to miss even more classroom time is the minute we know not to believe those same rich, old white men in suits who say a playoff system in football would be harmful because it would interfere with the student-athletes' class schedules. Now I know a majority of college football coaches prefer the current bowl system, but who's in charge here?
If there's anything the NCAA needs to tweak, it's the college football postseason. Make it a playoff, a plus-one, a plus-three, whatever. Give America's greatest sport something significant enough to determine an undisputed champion but subtle enough not to adversely impact the bowl games already in place. Figuring out the best way to determine a football champion is the only thing that needs to be solved, so leave the basketball tournament alone for now.