Report: Final 4 On Turner, NCAA Games On truTV

John Ourand & Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL report today:

Tru TV

ESPN has told the NCAA that it will not increase its bid to obtain the NCAA men’s basketball tournament rights, clearing the way for CBS and Turner to share the rights starting next year, according to sources with direct knowledge of the talks.

As I’ve written previously here, I fully expected CBS to outbid ESPN for the broadcast rights to March Madness, and apparently Turner has partnered with CBS to help up that bid on what will reportedly be a 14-year broadcast rights deal worth $710M annually.

From shortly after the time I first reported on Feb. 1 that the NCAA would expand to 96 teams, NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen has denied that a plan was in place to expand the tournament by 32 teams. He did the same in SBJ’s report: Read more…

CBS Source: 96-Team Tournament “Will Happen”

On Feb. 3, 2009, I reported that the NCAA basketball tournament field would be expanded to 96 teams, with the change likely to take effect in 2011.

March Madness Brackets Torn To Shreds

(Consolation: You already tore it up yesterday anyway)

In the past week I’ve learned from a CBS source that the NCAA has privately informed its current March Madness television partner that 96 teams “will happen.” The change will likely take effect beginning next season. 2012 at the latest.

CBS is in the eighth year of an 11-year, $6 billion contract to broadcast the tournament, but, as SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL reports, the NCAA can opt out of the deal this year if it does so before August 31.

The NCAA basketball tournament’s “unofficial czar“, senior VP of basketball and business strategies Greg Shaheen, said on March 9:

Contrary to what you’ve read on various blogs and the like, there’s nothing that’s a done deal or decided at this point in time. We’re full steam ahead with our agreement with CBS through 2013.

On the same day, CBS Sports President Sean McManus said:

Our plan is to carry the NCAA Tournament on CBS as long as we can. We’re focused right now on this year and not on next year. As far as expansion of the tournament is concerned, that’s something that Greg Shaheen would address. We really are focused on this year’s tournament. I don’t like to think about anything but this year’s tournament right now.

I think we have a history at CBS of keeping the events that we want to keep on our network. We’ve always done a good job of renewing the rights, and I would like to think that would follow through to the NCAA Tournament.

When we have an event that we like on CBS Sports, I think the track record’s pretty good about figuring out a way - whether it’s the NFL, or SEC football, or the Masters, or the PGA Championship, or U.S. Open Tennis. We’ve been pretty successful at keeping those marquee events where I think they belong, which is on CBS.

McManus didn’t sound as confident about a future arrangement between the parties as the NCAA’s Shaheen did. Though McManus didn’t want talk about tournament field expansion to overshadow his network’s 2010 coverage of March Madness. Especially considering that the expanded tournament might not involve CBS.

If the NCAA does exercise its escape clause with CBS, other networks will try to acquire the rights. (I’ve been told the NCAA has already had detailed discussions with ESPN about it.) Though my CBS source said the network is determined not to lose its flagship sports property, the measure of that determination will be counted in millions in increased rights fees.

While everyone knows money is behind 96, some may be unaware of just exactly who is driving the change. Read more…

Sports Illustrated: 96 Teams “Increasingly Likely”

Stewart Mandel of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has an extensive update on the prospect of the NCAA basketball tournament expanding to 96 teams. A month ago I reported that the expansion of the tournament will happen, and Mandel’s lengthy examination of the subject doesn’t suggest otherwise.

NCAA Tournament going to 96 teams

(As Bob Knight would say: ‘Relax and enjoy it’)

As I also reported last month, the ultimate decision on the status of the tournament field will be made by the NCAA Board of Directors. Mandel notes in his piece today that, “the Board of Directors is fully expecting to hold an expansion discussion at its next scheduled meeting on April 29 in Indianapolis.

NCAA Board Of Directors

(These women to help decide NCAA Tourney fate)

The deadline for a decision is July 31, so I would expect that May could be an eventful month to that end. Along with that news, Mandel has plenty of interesting, previously unreported tidbits.

Read more…

Meet The 18 People Who Wrecked March Madness

Coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners came out today and criticized the NCAA’s intention to take the NCAA Tourney to 96 teams.

NCAA Board Of Directors

(More say on 96 than all college coaches, ADs, conf. commishes combined)

So what effect will today’s high profile outcry have? None.

Thanks to the go-ahead from 18 people, and four major television networks, negotiations for broadcast rights to a 96-team tournament have already started.

So who are the people at the center of the decision to junk the 64-team format?

Read more…

96 Teams: NCAA Confirms “Continuous Dialogue”

Jeff Goodman at FoxSports.com reports late Monday that NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen denied my report earlier today that the NCAA has settled on a 96-team format for the NCAA tournament but confirmed that the organization will “investigate the possibility of expanding the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Tournament going to 96 teams

Shaheen said that there has been continuous dialogue about the potential of going from 65 to 96 teams.

“It’s part of our due diligence,” Shaheen said. “We have to look at what our membership wants. … Have we talked to people in our membership about expanding? Absolutely.

Goodman also noted:

The NCAA’s deal with the 32-team NIT also expires at the end of this season and, according to sources, one of the possibilities is to end the agreement and take 31 of those teams and add them to the NCAA tournament field.

While Shaheen wouldn’t comment on it, one source said that if the tournament does expand to 96, one of the potential formats would involve the identical start and end date and less travel than the NCAA and NIT tournaments combined.

Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com reports that today Kansas Coach Bill Self also indicated, “he could see it (the tournament) jumping to 72 or 96 teams.”

Read more…