Every since my dad showed me how to fill out a bracket — before I could really write anything more than my name, really — I have loved the NCAA tournament.
It’s the most exciting time of the year, especially in the Triangle. Without the tourney, people may only despise the NCAA a lot instead so-much-it-makes-their-head-spin.
And here comes my issue with the entire spectacle. The tournament is, more or less, the NCAA throwing itself in our face. Just look at the facts:
-The NCAA is playing the Final Four in the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, a behemoth of a stadium that feels more like a Grand Canyon than a typical college basketball arena (and this is coming from someone whose favorite team plays in one of the bigger arenas in the nation.) Why would the NCAA move the most important games of the year to an unfamiliar environment? Money, of course! The worst part is the Final Four becomes almost Super Bowl-esque, with less actual fans of the teams attending and more celebrities merely making an appearance.
-The NCAA has an official candy bar from this tournament. According to Forbes, the tournament made $1.13 billion in TV advertising just last year. The score lines at the top of the screen even have their own sponsors.
-Jahlil Okafor does not need to play college basketball. He has been ready to play professionally since he graduated high school, only to have archaic rules force him to attend school for a year. While NCAA supporters say the year allows young studs to get an extra year of seasoning, it further diminishes the academic part of student-athletes’ lives.
These factors, plus the wonderful fact that no student-athlete has seen a dollar of the multi-billion dollar business that revolves around them, make it so much harder to enjoy the tournament.
From a broadcast perspective however, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with the lack of conversation on the subject of the NCAA’s shady ways by color commentators, many of whom are former athletes and were screwed by the system.
Yes, they are indirectly profiting off of the system thanks to the massive broadcast deal between Turner Sports, CBS and the NCAA, but the thing is, college sports is not going away — they are only getting stronger. There will always be UNC-Duke, it just may not be held in the same, unfair ways they are currently conducted.
So, while some may see commentators speaking out as biting the hand that feeds them, it really is just them alerting the hand that it has a broken bone and it needs to be fixed, slowly but surely.