From 65 teams to 96? Your thoughts.
There’s plenty of reaction to possible expansion
By JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer Mar 16, 3:58 am EDT
NEW YORK (AP)—It wouldn’t take an act of Congress, and in the overall scheme of things, expanding the field for the NCAA men’s basketball championship wouldn’t solve or create any problems for most Americans.
Then why have so many people offered so many opinions on something that’s only in the discussion stage, at best, and might not even happen?
Because the three-weekend, 65-team format has become as much a March staple as cold rain in the Northeast and the sound of batting practice in Florida and Arizona.
Talk about expanding the field, from three more teams—to take away the stigma of a lone play-in game—to as many as 96, is getting much of the attention as the 2010 tournament begins.
The Associated Press asked coaches across the country about their feelings toward expanding the tournament as their teams played in conference tournaments.
Out of 23 coaches who talked to the AP, the results were roughly split between those favoring expansion to 96 teams, those who like the tournament the way it is but would open to tinkering with it and those who oppose expansion. Several others said they weren’t leaning either way just yet, but they do recognize the opportunity to make money, give more players the chance to experience the tournament, and—maybe most important—help a few of the 347 head coaches in Division I keep their jobs.
The NCAA tournament’s big moment of expansion was in the early 1980s, when the field grew from 32 to 40 then 48 teams. Finally, in 1985, the magic number became 64—later to be upped by one. It was in 1980 that the limit of one team per conference was lifted, changing the look and feel of the tournament.
“The coaches, at that time I think, were looking for direction from the Committee rather than venting at was handed down to them,” said Wayne Duke, the former commissioner of the Big Ten and Big Eight who was the chair of the Selection Committee from 1978-81. “The coaches now have more to say about it. I don’t remember it as a cause as they do these days. Coaches are more outspoken today, but believe me we did have our outspoken coaches in my day. Honestly, I can’t remember any negative feed back, at least not in a voice you hear now.”
Feelings these days are strong on both sides of the issue.
“I think 96 is too much. I really do. I think then the watering down does come into play,” said New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who, as a player, led Indiana to the 1987 national championship. “I’m not in favor of 96, but I would be in favor of expanding it some.”