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Sunday, June 16, 2024

NCAA Punts On Expanding Men’s March Madness Field

  • While discussions are ongoing, expansion “is not imminent,” the NCAA said.
  • Last year, college sports stakeholders in the Big East told Front Office Sports they were torn on the proposal.
Connecticut Huskies players celebrates after defeating the San Diego State Aztecs in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee has decided not to expand the 68-team men’s March Madness field — yet.

This week, the committee considered the proposal that championship tournament opportunities should be available to 25% of schools in all sports with at least 200 participating teams. That includes the men’s tournament.

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But while discussions are ongoing, expansion “is not imminent,” the NCAA said in a press release. NCAA SVP of Basketball, Dan Gavitt, added: “They are committed to doing their due diligence looking at a few different models to make an informed decision that’s in the best interests of the championship, and that may very well include deciding against expansion.”

Last year, college sports stakeholders in the Big East — the most high-profile basketball-centric conference — told Front Office Sports they were torn on the proposal. 

Coaches favored allowing as many athletes to experience the tournament as possible. But they agreed there were potential logistical challenges with an expanded tournament, especially for host schools. 

Commissioner Val Ackerman also noted that a tournament with more than 68 teams could become unwieldy from a TV scheduling standpoint. She also said there was no guarantee the NCAA would receive increased revenue from an expanded field from CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery, whose current contract with the NCAA runs until 2032.

If the men’s tournament expands, the women’s would have to follow suit — the NCAA can’t afford to make the two tournaments unequal again after the gender equity fiasco at the 2021 tournaments.

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