The columnist and bestselling author John Feinstein is arguing yet again that expanding the NCAA basketball tournament from 65 teams to 96 is detrimental to the sport in so many ways. "In short, this is the worst idea anyone has come up with since New Coke," he writes. And still Feinstein is certain it will happen:
Under the current setup, to pull in enough money to make its $700 million investment viable, CBS has 10 TV timeouts for commercials built into every game, not to mention it adds five minutes to the standard 15-minute halftime to pack in more commercials. If the contract goes to, say $1 billion annually, the network that wins the bid is going to need commercial inventory. That will mean more games, as the 64 games played in today's format are already choked to the brim with commercial interruptions.
That's the real reason there will be 96 teams. Not, as NCAA propagandists say, to give more "student-athletes" the chance to play in the tournament. This isn't 6-and-under tee ball where everyone gets a trophy for participating. You're supposed to be good to have the chance to compete for a championship.
In case you are wondering why Feinstein fixes quotation marks around the term "student-athletes": "The NCAA is so obsessed with pushing the myth of the 'student-athlete'—a redundancy, of course, because a college athlete must be enrolled as a student—that its tournament manual says the players must be referred to as 'student-athletes' at all times."