Jay Bilas article on ESPN insider, must read, this one is good

  • This article by the master himself, Jay Bilas, is a glaring indictment of the NCAA Basketball powers that be. It also deftly touches on a theory by @jaybate-1.0. I’ll keep my laymans opinion of college hoops out of this and let you guys see for yourself.

    After decades of hearing the football cognoscenti moan and complain about how a playoff would never work at the highest level of college football, despite the fact that all other levels of football (from high school to college to the NFL) have workable and popular playoff systems, the College Football Payoff -- I mean, Playoff -- was an incredible success.
    Both on the field and on the balance sheets of NCAA members (who will simply be referred to hereafter as the NCAA -- remember, the NCAA office in Indianapolis is constantly telling us that the member schools ARE the NCAA), the CFP dominated the ratings and the national sports conversation, generating billions of "new" dollars into the already obscenely full coffers of the NCAA. It will also be the driving force in huge salary increases for coaches and administrators, whose pay has always been tied to the market rather than the NCAA's high-minded rhetoric. The CFP is significant change for crowning a champion in football, but it will also be a driving force in significant change across the college sports landscape.
    The College Football Playoff will change our old ideas about the game, and it will help drive change in the way big-time football and basketball are administered. It might even drive change in the structure and size of Division I basketball.
    A funny thing happened on the NCAA's road to the College Football Playoff: The NCAA's narrative about being able to pick the two best teams died a swift death, and the NCAA's core ideology was proven to be nothing more than mindless babble.
    First, the idea that college football is somehow different than other sports, specifically college basketball, has been disproven. The football literati have always said that college football is compelling and people watch it because "every game counts." While a nice sentiment, it is -- and always has been -- total nonsense.
    In the BCS era, by that standard, hardly any of the games truly counted. Once a team lost a game, or unquestionably after losing a second, it was effectively eliminated from contention for the BCS National Championship and none of its remaining games "counted," other than when it was playing teams still in contention. Loads of teams had no chance whatsoever to compete for a title even if they won all of their games. And, if people tune in to watch games that count, how do we explain the public consumption of so many meaningless bowl games? Since the CFP is set in early December, all bowl games outside of the CFP are nothing more than glorified exhibition games. Yet, people watch and consume the product in record numbers.
    As it turns out, college football is just like college basketball. We have opinions on which teams are best and have the best chance to win, but we have no earthly idea what teams will actually win once they step onto the field. Ohio State provided significant evidence toward proving that fact, and it seems equally clear that other teams, if allowed the chance, could successfully compete in the playoff arena, just as they do in the Football Championship Subdivision and the NFL. In other words, if you think TCU had no chance to pull an upset and send one of the final four packing, you're wrong. Upsets would happen in football just as they happen in basketball. If the CFP goes to eight teams, which I believe it will someday, we will see teams seeded from 5 through 8 pull upsets. That is the way sports work. College football pretended to be different, but it was not, and is not.
    AP Photo/Tom Pennington, Pool
    After years of excuses, a playoff in college football became a reality.
    Those in charge of college sports made it seem like a CFP was completely impossible, a pipe dream that could and would never happen. They cited the bowl-game structure, the difficulty of finding television windows, competing with the NFL, concern for wear and tear on the players, and the prospect of missing school. All of those concerns were tidy little excuses, but nonsense. Adding an extra game was hardly a hardship, and it has led to billions of dollars and even more exposure and goodwill for the game.
    The CFP has done something else significant. It has widened the gap between the way college sports actually operates, as a multibillion-dollar professional sports enterprise, and the rhetoric college sports uses to camouflage its status as big business. The tension between running a playoff system that rivals the NFL and the NCAA's amateurism narrative has never been wider, and it is almost impossible to defend with a straight face.
    Look how fast the NCAA trotted out a payment to the parents and guardians of players for travel expenses to the CFP title game. Have you ever seen the NCAA act so quickly to provide such a "benefit?" I certainly cannot recall one. In doing so, the NCAA has proven beyond all doubt that amateurism is not a "bedrock principle," but an elastic notion that sways in whatever direction the wind blows.
    When compensation to players is discussed, it is dismissed out of hand (as the notion of the CFP used to be) with nonsensical responses such as, "Where will the money come from?" And, "Do we pay everyone the same?" And, "If we pay the men, we will have to pay the women." And, "What about the player at the end of the bench? He or she works just as hard as the best player, so shouldn't he or she receive the same amount?"
    Those ridiculous questions could be asked of this new CFP payment to players' parents. Where will the money come from? The same place the money comes from to pay everyone else. Nobody ever asks where the money will come from when Nick Saban or Mike Krzyzewski sign new contracts, or when an offensive coordinator signs for over a million dollars. Do we pay everyone the same? Despite the fact that no multibillion-dollar industry pays everyone the same amount, this CFP payment does not now extend to sports beyond football and men's and women's basketball. Why? Are the other 90 or so NCAA championships considered lesser events in the lives of the parents and players? Do they not want to see their kids perform on a championship stage? If this CFP payment is not "pay for play," it is certainly "pay for winning." If you win, your family gets paid. It is certainly not enough, nor anywhere near what these players are worth, but it is a step in the right direction.
    Lastly, and perhaps most important, the success of the CFP might actually be a driving force in shrinking the size of Division I sports. In the 1980s, the NCAA lost control of football. The College Football Association was formed, and many opined that, when football was being wrestled away from NCAA control, the CFA schools should take basketball with them, effectively ending NCAA control over the money and autonomy of the big shots in college sports. To this day, many lament the decision not to take basketball with football to be one of the biggest mistakes college sports made during that period.
    Now, after the BCS era, the CFP era will change college football scheduling, and there will be disincentives for top schools to play smaller schools in "guarantee" games. No longer will Alabama take a breather against Charleston Southern without consequence, giving its cupcake opponent a fat check and padding its win total and giving its players a break during the SEC season while it bores the daylights out of its fans. Those days are coming to a close. Nobody wants to watch those games, and players don't want to play in them. The smaller schools that are using their players as traveling tackling dummies to get an $800,000 check will have to find alternative sources of revenue.
    Similarly, in the footsteps of football, college basketball will be following a similar path. Division I college basketball is simply too big. There are 350 Division I teams in basketball, and large conferences that require 18 to 20 conference games. Conferences have become so big that "home and home" or "round robin" play is as extinct as the dodo bird. The proliferation of conference games has impacted nonconference scheduling such that over 33 percent of all nonconference games featuring a Top 25 team are played at neutral sites. And, while I believe that major conference players are exploited (but certainly not mistreated) because they are denied the right to fair compensation, the players from these smaller conferences are both exploited and mistreated.
    Chris Thomas
    Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports
    Texas Southern's upset of Michigan State masks the deeper issue of guarantee games in college basketball.
    Take the case of Texas Southern of the tiny Southwestern Athletic Conference, a school that has never won an NCAA tournament game in the main draw. Texas Southern was celebrated for beating Michigan State in East Lansing and Kansas State in Manhattan this season even though the Tigers were drilled in most of their other games, including a 40-point loss to Gonzaga, a 25-point loss to Florida and double-digit losses in six other games. Entering January, Texas Southern had played only one game at home. Just one.
    The Tigers played 12 nonconference "true road" games in the months of November and December at Eastern Washington, Indiana, Tennessee, Norfolk State, SMU, Baylor, Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Auburn, Kansas State and New Mexico State. On Jan. 17, Texas Southern will play its second home game of the season. In the regular season, Texas Southern will play only 10 games at home.
    Schools like Texas Southern are doing this for one reason and one reason only: to make money. Putting an unpaid, amateur student on the road for two straight months like a minor league baseball player is unconscionable. There is no legitimate reason for such games to be played when the universe of Division I can be easily reduced so that schools with similar resources and missions can play each other and business can be conducted in a fair and open way.
    What is inevitable in college basketball and college football, in addition to player compensation, is the contraction of the ridiculously large field into fewer units. College basketball can reduce the size of Division I and have more competitive play among teams that have more in common. It will make the product better. Fans will buy tickets to better games, because they are clearly not consuming these "guarantee games" the way they used to. And, players want to play in big games, not in these guarantee games. If Division I is reduced in size, players will be spread across fewer units and there will be better teams and better competition.
    And, those who believe college sports should be played like it is at the Division II or Division III level can conduct their business in that manner and let the moneyed big shots compete among themselves without crying foul every time someone wants cream cheese on a bagel. It all makes sense, and it is coming to theaters near you. If you believe Williams and Amherst "do it the right way," then play in that division. But, if you want to play high-level, Division I sports, you should be able to perform at that level on the field and devote the same amount of resources.
    Reducing the size of Division I is not that difficult, in word or deed. Being extremely generous as to inclusion, if the NCAA were simply to take the 65 teams from the five "power conferences" (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC), the 11 teams from the American Athletic Conference, the 14 teams from the Atlantic 10, the 10 teams from the Big East, the 10 teams from the Missouri Valley Conference, the 11 teams from the Mountain West and the 10 teams of the West Coast Conference, Division I would have 131 teams. That is a manageable number, and one from which every team could put together competitive nonconference schedules to go along with their league slates.
    And, if you examine the teams among those 131, you will find that the overwhelming majority of at-large teams and teams that actually win games in the NCAA tournament come from that group. Of the over 200 teams outside of that group, there is not a long list of teams that have had any reasonable degree of success in the NCAA tournament beyond the occasional upset. It is incredibly rare for any team from that list of over 200 teams to reach the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. If parity indeed exists, wouldn't such teams win more? The truth is, they don't win more because they cannot be expected to be competitive with a universe of 350 teams.
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
    Limiting automatic bids could keep teams like Albany from sharing a court with Florida.
    The biggest obstacle is the "mental hurdle" some would have to clear for there to be any change at all in the makeup or execution of the NCAA tournament. They would argue that any such change would ruin the tournament and kill the goose that laid the golden egg (even though the golden egg was apparently laid for the benefit of only administrators and coaches). They would also argue that such a system would lock out proud programs that have competed in the Final Four, such as Dartmouth (1942), Princeton (1965), UTEP (1966), Western Kentucky (1971), Charlotte (1977) and Penn (1979). Then they would finish off tugging at your heartstrings by saying it would ruin the beauty of Championship Week and effectively end any notion of Cinderella.
    Such doomsday prognostications are simply not good enough. The conduct of the regular season should not be based upon the diminishing chances of an upset bid by teams in the bottom half of Division I. Plus, while the 131 teams referenced above would make up Division I, there would be nothing stopping the NCAA tournament committee from inviting whichever teams it wanted to participate in the national championship event without having to include so many lesser teams as automatic qualifiers. The large amount of noncompetitive automatic qualifiers make the NCAA tournament less competitive and less interesting, rather than more competitive and more interesting. So, if you want Mercer, Norfolk State or Lehigh in the NCAA tournament, invite them. But, giving an automatic bid to every conference in a field of 350 teams is not giving us the best teams competing for a national championship.
    And, if you argue that asking the 200 or so teams to compete for a Division II or Division III title diminishes them and is unfair, then you are arguing that the Division II and Division III championships are lesser events and not as meaningful as the Division I national championship.
    Many coaches will sneer at reducing the size of Division I because they fear it will mean the elimination of "cupcake," nonconference wins, which will cause coaches to lose more games and will lead to more coaches getting fired sooner. While it is hard to imagine that coaches would get fired more often or with even less patience, that might very well be true -- to a degree. Is that reason enough to continue to carry a bloated Division I so the big shots can pad their schedules and over 200 schools can get fat guarantee money off the backs of their players? No, it's not.
    The College Football Playoff has made one thing crystal clear: We are not headed in the direction of fewer conference games, reduced revenue generation and an adherence to the antiquated and clearly false rhetoric of the NCAA power structure. We are headed to bigger games, bigger spectacles, bigger conferences, bigger conference schedules and bigger paychecks. The paychecks will be so big that more will inevitably trickle down to the players. And, the competition on the field and on the court will be enhanced and improved. The biggest winners there are players and fans. It's about time.

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