NCAA selects money over everything else

Kale Williams, Staff Writer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…if you are a sports fan. You have the baseball season creeping up on us, The Masters is just around the corner and March Madness is here. For the average person the latter is probably the only sports event many will watch, and with good reason.

The excitement, the passion and the pure joy of watching 18-21 year old college students putting everything they have into one goal makes for great TV.  No one can forget Coach Jim Valvano running around like a crazed man in 1983, or Adam Morrison sitting at half court and crying in 2006.

In these moments it seems the NCAA has lost what the tournament is supposed to do and that’s to find the best team for that year.

The NCAA isn’t concerned with who the best team is; its main worry is how many more commercials it can sell. The NCAA bought the rights to the tournament from the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 1939 for just over $2,500. This year the men’s tournament is projected at being worth north of $700 million.

With the money coming from TV deals, the NCAA needs to make sure the companies that are paying are getting their money’s worth, and how does it do that? Simple, give more at large bids to smaller schools.

This year it was more apparent than ever.  Just look at some of the last teams that the selection committee chose. St. Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State made the tournament while the likes of Kentucky, the defending champion, and University of Tennessee didn’t get invited to the dance.

This isn’t a bash on the little guys. St. Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State did what they had to do, but rather a condemnation of the NCAA. Granted Kentucky wasn’t what people have come to expect from arguably the best college program in basketball history, but they still put together a fine season. They and University of Tennessee both play in the Southeastern Conference. They battle on national TV against the likes of Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss. They play in a much harder conference than any of the small schools.

Basketball, unlike its counterpart football, has the aspect that one player can change a team’s fortunes. Steph Curry did this for Davidson in 2008 and 2009 as did Wally Szczerbiak did for Miami of Ohio 1999. But that’s the exception to the rule. Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina have better players on down years than most schools could hope for in a good year.

It’s simple why the selection committee chooses the smaller school. College basketball loves David beating Goliath. It keeps them in the water cooler conversation. No one wants to hear about Goliath beating Goliath.

It seems most have grown tired of seeing Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski climb the ladder to cut down the nets. UCLA has more than its share of championship banners hanging from the rafters.

Kentucky beating Kansas isn’t a story and doesn’t bring the casual fan in. George Mason beating Kansas does. The stories about the players on the big school teams are told all year long. Few know the back-stories for teams like Virginia Commonwealth or Butler.

If the players suiting up for the teams are truly amateurs and get no compensation for their efforts, the NCAA should do the same. Don’t have bidding wars between TV companies for the rights to air the games.

If there is no monetary incentive for the NCAA, maybe, just maybe we can get close to getting the purest games possible. If they only cared about finding the best team for the year rather than reaching a higher TV rating than last year, we would all win.