Sources: 96-Team March Madness Is “Done Deal”

Sources at ESPN and inside the administration at a powerhouse NCAA basketball school told me today that the NCAA basketball tournament going to 96 teams is a “done deal.

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(More rounds? There goes dude’s clavicle)

An ESPN source said, “It’s a done deal with the expansion of the tournament. Depending on how soon a (TV) deal is done, the added teams could start next year. The NCAA confirmed that bidders would be interested in 96 teams, so they’re going with it.

Another ESPN source confirmed to me that the network was in the formative stages of pondering a bid for the expanded tournament.

John Ourand and Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL reported this morning that if the NCAA opts out of its current broadcast rights deal with CBS, the governing body will consider,expanding from a 65-team tournament to either 68 or 96 teams.

The NCAA-CBS broadcast rights contract has three years and $2.131 billion remaining. SBJ reports, “the NCAA has until Aug. 31 to exercise its right, though it hopes to conclude the process much earlier.

A 68-team field would add three games to the current 65-team format, and a 96-team field would add 31 games to the tourney.

SBJ also notes that ESPN, Fox and a Turner-CBS collaboration may vie for broadcast rights of the tournament.

The broadcasters are basing their bids on an expanded tournament field, according to a request for proposal issued by the NCAA to potential bidders late last year.

The NCAA reportedly wants a new, 14-year deal with its network partner(s) with an early opt-out only available to the NCAA. (Overplaying its cards?)

As my sources indicate, the NCAA is already dead-set on expanding to a 96-team hoops tournament, so what affect will that have on interest in March Madness and the regular season?

I’m one of those guys who lightly follows the regular season but loves the postseason tournament. Going to 96 teams will render the regular season even more meaningless and I’m not so sure that March Madness will be as fervently embraced with the dilution of the field and added number of games. Like my bracket isn’t big enough already?

If they’re going to go to 96 teams, why not just make the whole season a double elimination tournament?

And if the NCAA is going to drag out the hoops tournament even more, causing players to miss more class, how can it continue to justify not having a college football playoff?

Someone needs to check the water in Indianapolis. Might wanna consider a boil warning.

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