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The NCAA: With All Those Brain-pans, This is the Best They Could Do?

The NCAA governing body is made up of college educators with PhD's in everything you can imagine.  Most folks would think that makes them pretty smart people, but after some of the more recent pondering by this august group, one has to wonder if they just decided to send their brains on vacation for a while.

First, it's the new and improved 68-team NCAA tournament format.  The best the NCAA could come up with is essentially four play-in games.  So now, instead of one utterly meaningless play-in game, we have four. I didn't even watch the play-in game when the victor, Florida A&M, was Kentucky's first-round foe back in the 2004 tournament.  And now we are going to get the pleasure of watching two games like Florida A&M vs. Lehigh?  Be still, my fluttering heart.

The other two games are going to be between the "last four out," which would presumably most likely be major conference teams with mediocre years.  So this year, maybe we would have had the Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. the Illinois Fighting Illini.  Gripping.

Two games of welfare for small school coaches and two for major college coaches.  That's what this is.

I think we can now safely imagine that this decision was not really about money.  There is no way that the NCAA is going to make much, if any, more money on these four utterly innocuous games in which the winner gets to be the first #16 seed to try to knock off a #1.  I suppose a team like MSU or Illinois would wind up having a better chance to do that than FAMU, but let's get real here -- this isn't about making the tournament better, it's about shutting up university presidents, athletics directors and particularly coaches.

Mark Story comments on the new NCAA tournament today, and I think he and I mostly agree.  I would rather see the tournament choose 68 teams, seed them 1-68, and go from there.  That, at least, hides the welfare effort, and retains the integrity of the tournament.  But no.  Instead, the committee decided to expose it for the hand-out that it is.

I suppose that could be a feature, not a bug. Hope springs eternal.

As if that wasn't enough for one article worth of derision, we have this mess from Jeff Goodman:

The NCAA’s Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet has come up with the brilliant idea of trying to pass a proposal that says college coaches won’t be able to give scholarship offers to recruits until July 1 just prior to their senior season in high school.

It’s comical.

Goodman's absolutely right.  You just can't beat the NCAA for unintended hilarity, and this proposal, if passed, would be the poster child for the idea that really intelligent people tend to lack any common sense.

This proposal is as unenforceable as Medford, Oregon's silly law to license bicycles.  "So you wanna come to Illinois to play, sophomore Julius Phenom?  Well, you know I can't accept a commitment from you, but I just don't think we're going to have enough good players to fill out our roster two years from now (wink, wink), so I'm betting that there will be a scholarship available to you (nudge, nudge).  But you can talk to me about it any time."

Good luck with that one, NCAA.  Sure, we try to outlaw illicit verbal agreements all the time, but if a kid wants to go somewhere and makes that fact known, what is a coach supposed to do, tell him he can't even think about it for fear of violating an NCAA rule?

To me, this smacks of thought-policing and trying to outlaw intentions.  It just isn't good policy, and it won't work.  The NCAA rule book is thick enough without adding another silly, unenforceable reason to label someone a cheater.  There are tons of bigger problems that need NCAA attention, like over-signing in college football recruiting, where coaches can sign more players than they have scholarships for.

And yet they opt for this.  Priorities, I guess.  The ghost of Billy Clyde and the 8th grader rises to haunt college basketball.