• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -

Keep Your Invitation: The NIT Is Struggling to Stay Relevant

  • March Madness is getting underway Tuesday night, but so is its little brother.
  • More than half a dozen teams declined invites to the NIT.
eff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

As March Madness gets underway Tuesday night in Dayton with the First Four of the men’s NCAA tournament, so too does a once-prestigious event that is losing more flair each year: the National Invitation Tournament.

Founded in 1938 and gearing up for its 86th edition, the winner of the NIT early on in its history was often regarded as that year’s true national champion, as opposed to who came out victorious at the NCAA tournament. That clearly hasn’t been the case for decades, though, and now the NIT is struggling to maintain any relevance at all in the shifting college sports landscape.

Twelve Power 5 schools and five from the Big East will make up just over half of the NIT’s 32-team field that boasts Indiana State, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, and Villanova as its top seeds. But that was finalized only after eight major universities either declined invitations or made it known they would not accept one. Indiana, Memphis, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Syracuse, and Washington all presumably could have been in the NIT, if they wanted to.

Shrinking Footprint

The NIT has been controlled by the NCAA since 2005, and its media rights are baked into ESPN’s overarching college championships package that will pay out $920 million over the next eight years under a newly signed contract. But the women’s NCAA tournament comprises $65 million of that deal’s $115 million annual value. Last year, North Texas won its first NIT title over UAB in the final that garnered just 370,000 viewers on ESPN2 on a Thursday night. That was the lowest audience for the NIT title game since at least ’11, according to Sports Media Watch.

This year’s NIT semifinals and final will take place at Butler’s 9,100-seat Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, airing on the main ESPN channel next month the day before the Final Four begins 1,700 miles away in Phoenix, where nearly 150,000 fans will watch the NCAA tournament end.

March Madness Expansion?

Last week, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark spoke publicly about possibly expanding the men’s NCAA tournament to 76 teams after recent reports suggested momentum for adding teams to the field was under consideration. Bubble teams that feel snubbed this year would surely be more interested in participating in an expanded NCAA tournament than future iterations of the NIT. But whether their disinterest in the longstanding event leads to the growth of its rival remains to be seen.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

The Yankees’ Radio Voice Retires, Ending an Era of Longevity

The longtime Yankees radio announcer was an industry outlier in many respects.

Knicks’ Resurgence Marks Peak in Dolan’s Sports Domain

The team’s on-court success is fueling a series of gains off it.

States Want Tax Reform As Ohtani’s Deal Deferrals Stir Controversy

California legislators heighten their push for new tax rules around deferred compensation.

Wrexham, Leverkusen Write Hollywood Stories

The guaranteed payoff for Wrexham is modest but still significant.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Inside the Most-Hyped WNBA Draft in History


Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Dunham's Sports
Multiple - USA Careers

‘Nothing Is Off the Table’: New AAC Commissioner Isn’t Afraid of the Controversial Ideas

Tim Pernetti told reporters he’s specifically interested in private equity—and didn’t rule out athlete employment or unionization models.
April 10, 2024

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer Retires With ACC Move Looming

She set the all-time coaching record with 1,216 wins.
April 10, 2024

Deion Sanders: NFL Teams Manipulate Draft Positions

Coach Prime joined ‘Front Office Sports Today’ to discuss the state of college football.

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 9, 2024

John Calipari’s Kentucky Exit Is As Slow and Awkward As a Dog in a Stroller

Calipari steps away from Kentucky with the Arkansas deal still unofficial.
April 9, 2024

Simultaneous Final Fours: An Untenable Logistical Conundrum

The women’s Final Four has gotten much too big to take place at the exact same time—in a different location—as its men’s counterpart.
April 8, 2024

With Back-To-Back Titles, UConn Proves Basketball Is About More Than Power

Unlike in FBS football, a non-Power 5 basketball school can dominate.
April 8, 2024

South Carolina’s Title Win Smashes Ratings Records in Caitlin Clark’s Finale

The NCAA title game became the most-watched women’s college basketball game.