Here we go. I am in Omaha for the KU men’s opening round games Friday minus my wonderful wing woman. Laura flew out of Topeka today with the KU women’s team for Little Rock. The women’s team returns to the NCAA party for the first time since 2000. Time to dance a two-city, two-step.
In the KU world where we reside, college basketball is alive and thriving. It is hard to imagine it any other way. USA Today ran an article online last Sunday, however, noting that attendance nationally at men’s basketball games over the past five season has steadily declined. This included NCAA Championship round games. Regional games played to only 71% of capacity at some sites last year. Blame is laid on technology making watching from home or office easier and cost-effective. Early departures for the NBA have diluted the college game in some fan’s eyes, and scandals have soured fans according to USA Today.
The most radical suggestion to enhance fan enthusiasm is to begin the basketball season in January and carry on into late April. March Madness would give way to April what? Looking at a Thesaurus, there really are no words that begin with “A” that match “madness.” Funny though, the Thesaurus did suggest “all hell broken loose.”
That is the way it would seem to me. Besides conflicting with the start of baseball season, some first round NCAA games would be played on the same week as the Masters. How could CBS, the broadcasting host of both the NCAA Championships and the Masters ever allow that. April is spring time. Sitting inside a football stadium hosting a basketball game screams oxymoron to me. Now, rip the roof off a dome and play outdoors? That would be quite a championship.
There is one other disturbing thought in the story.
“The regular season in college basketball is exceedingly irrelevant,” Stanford athletics director Bob Bowlsby said in the story.
All that could be changed if conference’s eliminated post-season championships. The regular season could be pushed back from its early November start. Every game would matter more. With the conference season again the determining factor for NCAA selection and seeding, conference games would be truly dramatic and demand greater attention.
Also, eliminate the one and done player by enforcing the same rule applied to college baseball and football. Go pro straight out of high school, or enroll in college for a three-year minimum. True teams would be developed again. Fans would be able to identify with the growth and development of players. Fan loyalty would grow. In time, the level of play would grow to new heights.
Of course, these simple solutions are far from simple. The cash post-season championships contribute to so many coffers make a change almost impossible. My argument would be to bring back holiday tournaments with strong fields that would, for example, draw fans to Kansas City’s Power and Light district just as it does now for the Big 12 Championship.
With all the madness of March I can see just outside my hotel window next to Omaha’s CenturyLink Center, it is hard to imagine problems with college basketball, but as I await the late Friday tipoff of the KU men’s run, it is fun to dream of change.