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Sports fans rejoice! It’s March Madness time again and the first round begins today at 12 noon. Last night, the Arkansas Pine-Bluff Golden Lions defeated Winthrop in the elimination game to narrow the field down to the top 64 teams. Of course, it’s not necessarily good news for the Lions, who will now have to play number 1 seed Duke on Friday. While the Golden Lions are probably excited to be in the Big Dance, they should have a more compatible partner than that.
The NCAA is one of the best run and most efficient sports organizations there is and, generally, they do a good job of promoting college sports across the board. But, this rule of the top teams basically getting an automatic bid to the next round by playing the lowest seeds has got to go. I asked my husband why they don’t just have each team play the the next seeded one, as in number 1 plays number 2, number 3 plays number 4, etc. His response was that the organization is trying to ensure that the Final Four is competitive by guaranteeing top tier teams to make audiences tune it. Sadly, his “follow the money” rationale makes perfect sense.
But, if business economics is dictating the policy of the tournament, then teams that are ranked lowest are being sent through to play the patsy role for the higher seeded teams. Which is yet another argument for paying college athletes. I’m not necessarily in favor of financially compensating college kids to play sports, but when the organization that promotes the sport is making money off of the kids, then they should receive a share of that. The scholarship is a great opportunity, but that’s just to allow them the experience of playing. Once a player or a team starts bringing in money for the NCAA through ticket or jersey sales, they should get a cut of those profits. After all, that’s directly related to their performance, right? Seems like these kids should be the ones getting annual bonuses. They’re actually making money for their institutions.
I don’t really expect anything to change in the meantime. The system is making far too much money as it is. If these kids were to start earning money, I’m sure the NCAA would find a way to raise athletic fees to pay for it to avoid losing any of the profits they’re already making. But, I will be rooting for a number 16 team to upset one of these high-profile squads. It would be interesting to see how the NCAA would market a national championship game between East Tennessee State and Vermont.