Sports Commentary 3/22/13
The Good, Bad and Ugly of the NCAA Tournament
FOLLOW THE MONEY
The NCAA’s annual spring cotillion is underway, our yearly opportunity to put the NCAA under the microscope, the good, the bad, the not so pretty side of an organization that isn’t shy about creating new means of generating more dollars and covering up some of the seamy side to protect it’s investment. If it created it on the drawing board the NCAA couldn’t have come up with a better upside to open the round of 64 than to have Ivy League champ Harvard pull off the upset of the day. True student athletes under the tutelege of a scholar coach who’s turned down higher profile jobs over the years, giving the good old college tournament a good old college presence. But don’t believe for one minute that the “First Four”, two day creation in Dayton, Ohio is about anything but money. If it were about rewarding deserving teams for a season long body of work Northeast Conference champion LIU wouldn’t be relegated to a game that draws about the same amount of attention women’s basketball games drew in the early days of Title IX. The reward should be a place on the big stage, the real first round of the tournament, when the eyes of the nation are glued to T-V screens in every available venue. The “First Four” games are four more games T-V pays for, nothing more, nothing less. Quick, name this year’s four winners. I just made my point. For the third straight year the tournament opens with an investigation into myriad NCAA violations in the Syracuse athletic department, most in the men’s basketball program, which, among other things, is suspected of fudging a little on Fab Melo’s academic eligibility while he was leading them to high tournament seedings. After the first question about the situation was asked at the pre game press conference the NCAA moderator informed the media no more such questions would be asked. A number of the stars being showcased in the event will perp walk to court dates on a variety of charges once their usefulness to the NCAA is over. Many have already faced court dates. Most of those stories aren’t being told, lest they diminish the lustre of March Madness. Interestingly, one story was told during a late game last night, about a player who was absent following his arrest for possession and distribution of marijuana. That story came late enough they probably felt they could sneak it past blurry eyed masses that much earlier had lost the capacity of distinguishing one game from another. It also served the purpose of giving the impression if there is a bad apple in the mix they weed it out before the big dance begins. But the greatest demonstration of the dirty little secret about the NCAA Tournament is on national display in just about every game, when a team in yellow takes on a team in black, or a team in red takes on a team in black, or a team in blue or white or green takes on a team in black. Surely all those schools can’t have the same team color. But one big team does, team Nike, which prefers to see all of it’s teams in the one color that attracts all gang types. With so much money on the table “survive and advance” really means win, and stay on the stage, at all costs, even to the reputation of the institution. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.