Friday, February 2, 2018
Expansion of NCAA March Madness Field Remains a Possibility
For more than 15 years, Mike Loftus has led operations at MLE Merchandising and Sign Solutions, Inc., in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, as company president. Beyond his work at MLE, Mike Loftus enjoys following professional and collegiate sports, including the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.
In 2010, the NCAA opted to expand March Madness from 65 to 68 teams through a series of play-in games. The organization had considered expanding the field to 96 teams as part of a 14-year deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting, valued at nearly $11 billion, but the concept was met with derision from coaches and fans alike. The smaller 2010 expansion was the first since 2001, when the field grew from 64 to 65 teams.
However, the current broadcast deal continues to provide the NCAA with the option of expanding the tournament at any point, and the attraction of a 96-team field, which would mean more games and increased participation at college campuses around the nation, remains on the table. Critics, meanwhile, point out that expanding to 96 or 128 teams renders the conference tournaments, which are currently very competitive and dramatic, essentially pointless, as virtually every moderately talented team in the nation would qualify for March Madness.
For now, the NCAA has no immediate plans for growing the tournament outside of continuing to televise every game over the course of the competition, though a middle ground, such adding four more teams for a total of 72 colleges, might be an option.