College sports are going through massive, sweeping changes and the NCAA, which is historically resistant to change, is now playing catch-up to the reality on the ground.
So according to CBS Sports, the NCAA has made a number of major changes and is considering some other big ones.
Definitely happening: a second, “NIT level” women’s tournament.
But the NCAA is also bringing back summer basketball academies, which didn’t work all that well before the pandemic, but the cartel wants in on grassroots basketball in some capacity.
There are some proposals for (primarily) men’s basketball that will be major changes. For the first time, there is serious discussion of limited summer play, including, possibly, tournaments.
But the biggest change might be to expand the men’s tournament. Post-season play for other sports may be expanded as well.
Basketball is the big money spinner though and expanding the tournament could have big rewards. It also has significant risk: you don’t want to water down the greatest tournament in history without good reason.
The basic idea is that college sports could allow as much as 25 percent of all teams to participate in the post-season.
This idea is bound to go over well with one-bid leagues and conferences that have sturdy teams every year. Look at the West Coast Conference for instance. Obviously Gonzaga is a major player every year, but last year, Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara, Francisco and BYU all won at least 24 games (Santa Clara actually just won 21, but they finished in third place, so factor that in).
But more interestingly, let’s take a hypothetical from last season: South Dakota State won 30 games in the Summit League, but if they had been upset in their conference tournament, they would have been NIT-bound. So you can see why the smaller conferences would like a change like this.
The big question of course is if expansion would weaken the tournament’s appeal, which would be disastrous.
Still, even if it’s belated, the NCAA is waking up to reality. Change is not going to go away. If anything, it’s probably going to become more intense. Not every idea is going to work, but standing pat is no longer an option.