NCAA recommends expanding tournament field to 68, agrees to new TV deal with CBS

The NCAA Tournament will be expanding by just three teams beginning in 2011. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images/Pic via

Amidst all the talk of Big Ten and NCAA Tournament expansion in recent weeks, the integrity of college sports appeared poised to take another blow.

Good news for college basketball fans on multiple fronts on Thursday. The NCAA unanimously passed a recommendation to expand the NCAA Tournament field by three teams and spurned ESPN’s bid for obtaining exclusive television rights to the tournament by agreeing to a new deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.

College basketball fans were baffled when the NCAA began talking openly about expanding the tournament field to 96 teams. Public reaction to the rumors was extremely negative, and expanding the field by 31 teams would have created a logistical nightmare for fans, players, and coaches.  Adding three additional teams is much more plausible.  A final decision on expansion will come after the NCAA board of directors meets on April 29.

Proposed expansion hinged largely on the NCAA’s long-standing relationship with CBS.

The NCAA opted out of its existing deal with CBS last month, opening the possibility for ESPN to swoop in and grab exclusive television rights. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Thursday the NCAA announced it has agreed to a new 14-year television deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting worth over $10.8 billion dollars. The partnership will bring controversial and sometimes puzzling regional coverage to an end. According to CBS’ Gary Parrish, all games will still be viewable online.

The sanctity of the NCAA Tournament remains intact–for a few more years at least.


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