Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com penned an insightful article this morning on expansion and how basketball is not a consideration. He addressed how Kansas could be the big loser in all of this, but the biggest loser is college basketball as a whole.
It's no secret that college football has been the driving force behind expansion, at least initially. Conferences needed to go to 12 teams to establish a conference championship game. Now expansion is simply a matter of survival, and of course increasing conference revenue.
Why is college football such a big draw?
Several years ago, I was a huge college football fan. My favorite show was ESPN's College GameDay. Over the past few seasons, however, the games seem less compelling and less meaningful. Except for the fabulous Texas-USC National Championship game in 2006, the postseason in the BCS era has always been anti-climactic. There is one meaningful post-season game, and it's played a month after the regular season ends.
College basketball on the other hand, determines its champion by playing a tournament open to every Division I school.
The NCAA Tournament is the most exciting event in all of college sports. It draws in viewers who otherwise have no interest in the sport. It's the NCAA's biggest source of revenue. College basketball is fast-paced, exciting, and fits nicely into a two-hour time slot. It's tailor-made for passionate rivalries and gut-wrenching endings.
The problem expansion causes for college basketball is that it diminishes the rivalries that make the game great and creates an unbalanced conference schedule.
Does Wake Forest get chills about an upcoming game against Boston College? Would Syracuse be buzzing about a conference game against Clemson? Of course not.
How does a team with a 10-6 conference record get left out of the NCAA Tournament, while a 7-9 team from the same league gets in? Simple—the unbalanced scheduling makes conference records meaningless.
I blogged a couple weeks ago about a projected conference realignment (by Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger ) that would create a tremendous basketball conference. Such an alliance between the Big East and ACC is intriguing from a basketball perspective.
If expansion can be done in a manner that enhances college basketball, keeps conferences in a somewhat regional alignment, and in a way that strikes a balance between tradition and modern realities, then fine.
But it's a mistake for conferences to expand to the degree proposed in recent weeks, thereby ruining the greatest sport the NCAA has to offer.