Even though the NCAA still hasn’t announced if, when, and how the 2020-21 basketball season can start, the 15 coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference are all in agreement that next year’s March Madness tournament should have a brand-new look.
As in, everyone’s invited — all 346 Division 1 teams.
After the ACC coaches' weekly conference call Wednesday morning, the sports network Stadium reported that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was leading the push for the come-one, come-all approach to the enormously successful and popular annual tournament, which this year was canceled because of the pandemic.
The event generates in excess of $900 million, approximately 75 percent of the NCAA’s annual revenue, with the bulk of the money sent back to conferences and schools.
Given the uncertainty that already exists about this coming season — the NCAA is expected to vote next week on a Nov. 25 start date, two weeks later than usual, but with lingering uncertainty about nonconference games — the chances of the ACC’s proposal ever seeing the light of day appear dim.
“How about just figuring out when we’re going to start the damn season?” said Boston University men’s coach Joe Jones with a laugh over the phone. “I’m not saying I would do it, I’m just telling you without any research, I’d want to know more about how this would work and how it would impact other people before I’d say yeah.”
In a statement, Boston College men’s coach Jim Christian, whose team plays in the ACC, expressed his clear support for the proposal.
“The head coaches in the ACC are united in our support for an NCAA Tournament inclusive of all Division 1 teams," he said. "Safety of our student-athletes remains priority one. Through so much uncertainty, our student-athletes will get the opportunity to participate in the best event in all of sports.
“As ACC head coaches, we are strongly advocating for an all-inclusive 2021 NCAA Tournament."
The wish and urgency behind the ACC’s plan are easy to grasp, even if the details are scant to nonexistent.
The tournament’s current setup is for a 68-team draw, with invitations extended to conference winners and other strong contenders. There is always a debate about teams on the bubble, but the ACC coaches' plan would eliminate bubble teams, even if games have to be played in a quarantined bubble.
Questions abound, such as:
Would the No. 1 team in the country really have to play the worst team, and why?
Could an already hurting economy handle the hit from time lost to filling out office pools' massive brackets?
Is Dick Vitale up for this?
Jones said that as long as the tournament could be held safely, there would be no harm and a lot of benefit in trying because “we’ll have a hard time recovering if [cancellation] happens again."
"These are unprecedented times and they call for unprecedented measures to get out of this and work through it,” the BU coach said. “Our country has been through so much with this pandemic that if this could breathe some happiness into or support more people or finance more jobs, if this is going to be a positive for our economy, then yeah, I’m all for doing anything that I think could help the state of our country.”
In a conference call with reporters, UMass men’s coach Matt McCall supported the contours of the plan.
”Why not?" said McCall. “Let’s do it. Celebrate college basketball. Boy, would it be great for TV.
“With all the financial implications that every school went through, some schools worse than others, some schools in jeopardy of having to cancel athletics because of the financial implications, and if there’s a way we can help and keep college athletics and college basketball going and moving forward and this financial piece of doing that kind of tournament from the TV revenues to everything, I’m all in."
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.