Nov. 17, 2010
DAVID WORLOCK: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the season’s first teleconference with Gene Smith, who is the chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and of course the director of athletics at Ohio State University. We’ll begin with opening comments from Gene and then members of the media will have a chance to talk to Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, followed by a session with Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
Gene, if you would, please go ahead with your opening remarks.
GENE SMITH: Thank you, David. Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, I’d like to thank you for joining us today, thank Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Stevens for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us. We really appreciate it.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, this year will take on a different look with the decision earlier this year to expand the field by three teams to 68. We are excited about what the future holds.
The new format calls for the first four, the quartet of first round games, to be played in Dayton on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday, which will be held March 13th. We’re excited about this change and we think it will be embraced by coaches, student athletes, fans and all of you.
You recall that the committee spent several months exploring expansion options and garnering feedback from our membership and we decided 68 teams was the appropriate way to go. There are no plans for further expansion. It isn’t even on our radar screen.
While we love March Madness, the fact is the Road to the Final Four has already begun for 345 Division I teams. These non conference games taking place in the coming days and week, the conference battles coming right after that, set the table for being selected to the tournament and where you’re seeded on the bracket. While college basketball is more widely known for its tournament, the regular season is meaningful and really exciting. There are more and more quality coaches, student athletes, resulting in additional quality programs. There are more and more of these programs willing to take challenges and go on the road and play different people at different places. We’re really excited about what the regular season is bringing.
Just as the teams have started their journey to March, our committee has already started the process of evaluating teams. I’m honored to be joined by athletic directors Jeff Hathaway of Connecticut, Lynn Hickey of Texas, San Antonio, Mike Bobinski of Xavier, Stan Morrison of California Riverside, Ron Wellman of Wake Forest, Scott Barnes of Utah State, and Steve Orsini of SMU, along with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton as committee members.
We look forward to another outstanding season culminating in crowning the champion on April 4th at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
DAVID WORLOCK: Thank you, Gene.
We’re ready to go ahead and take questions.
Q. I heard there have been some conversations about some sort of opening weekend type thing for college basketball. I know it’s not a formal agenda item, but what you have discussed?
GENE SMITH: You know, it really was not a part of our agenda. It was a casual conversation we had in our meetings in New Orleans last week. We were sitting around and realized that the games started, we were watching games. We really thought it would be nice if we had, at the beginning of the basketball season, an event of some nature that brought attention and awareness right off the bat on the first games right away.
We’re blessed right now with the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon just concluding. While that was going on, there was a great deal of excitement.
In the first week, it didn’t seem to have the energy and excitement that we felt the start of the season should have.
So it’s really a discussion we thought we needed to keep on our radars as we move forward with the changing landscape of college basketball, with our new television partners. So it’s nothing that is definitive for us. It was just a casual conversation that we thought was a good idea to keep on our agenda for the future to see if we could bring early attention and awareness to basketball.
Q. This is a long way off. You talked about the importance of the regular season. I was at the Butler game last night. The success of Butler, Northern Iowa last year, might that cause the committee to pay more attention to teams that dominate at that level? Northern Iowa, 28 4, Butler winning 25 in a row coming into the tournament. I wondered if the committee, in terms of seeding and selection, might look at that a little differently than they have in recent years?
GENE SMITH: I don’t think so. I think we always looked at it objectively. I think we try and make sure that we pay attention to those teams’ accomplishments over the entire year, try our best to not actually put a name or a brand with the team, just look at their performance.
Every year’s different. The Northern Iowas and Butlers are always going to be there with maybe a different name. I think we just need to always be objective and do our due diligence.
I don’t see us changing anything. I see us staying consistent with paying attention to the total body of work that any team brings to the table.
Q. I know it’s early, but have you gotten any sense at this point how the 68 teams will impact what you do? I think there’s a perception it might make it easier.
GENE SMITH: I don’t know if it will make it easier. I hope you’re right (laughter).
It’s really hard to speculate what that moment will bring for us. Our policies and procedures on selecting and seeding and bracketing will pretty much stay the same. We’ll move through our process. Now, as opposed to stopping, we’ll go to 37 at large. I just don’t see us changing anything. I still believe there’s going to be that 38th and 39th team that feel they should have been the 36th or 37th team. To my view, it will be a continued level of excitement from that perspective.
We’ve not done any speculation on that. I do believe, though, in the room we’ll kind of have one of those moments of, Okay, here we are with trying to solidify who 35, 36 and 37 is. But it won’t change our process. I think it will be more of a psychological or emotional experience in the first year of going to 68.
Q. Now that you’ve had a little bit of time to look at it, get a feel after the Final Four, what did Butler’s run do for the tournament, the Final Four specifically?
GENE SMITH: Well, I think a number of things. Brad did a marvelous job with his team throughout the year to a point where he’s there in the championship game. It just so happened that we were in Indianapolis. We were right there in that hometown. It created a great deal of energy, a lot of synergy for what was going on in that community. That was on one level.
But I think on a broader level, I think it continued to perpetuate the idea that anyone can achieve greatness. People underestimate the capabilities of schools that are branded differently. I think that’s a mistake in our society and among our fan base.
When you have an institution that creates an environment for a coach like Brad and his young men to excel, they’re going to take advantage of that platform. Butler did that. I think every year you’re going to have some teams that are going to emerge that way. Whether they can get all the way to the Final Four, who knows. But I think there will be teams that will get in who maybe unexpectedly got in and maybe make that unexpected run. I think that’s great for college basketball. It’s a great level of excitement.
That game, because of the way it ended, will go down in history as one of the most memorable, thrilling games that we’ve ever had. So it’s the thing in my view that’s great about college basketball, differentiates us from so many other things.
Q. I think the first question you took, you said you guys had a discussion about a formal opening to the college hoops. You said nothing definitive. How can it go beyond early attention and awareness?
GENE SMITH: You look at the games that are coming up. You look at the games that are played recently this week, the great games coming up over the next several days with Michigan State and Duke, Butler and Duke, Kansas State and Gonzaga, Purdue and Virginia Tech, and you keep going on. The great games that are happening now sure would have been great to happen in the first week early. That was some of the perspective of some of us, not everybody in the room, that would just have this splash that, Hey, the season is here.
We’re having it now. We just had it with the marathon where there’s great attention and awareness and a great level of excitement. Everybody is getting excited now. We were just hopeful that it could be a week earlier.
No big issue. Just a conversation. I think it’s something that we need to ask our membership and our different support organizations to talk about. One, is it a good idea? If it is, what type of things can be done? At this point in time, we didn’t speculate on what could be done. But are there things that can be done? Then we moved on to our regular agenda items.
Q. I’m going to ask you to put on your other hat. Ohio State, did you hear that Amir Williams signed with you? Is there anything you’d like to say about that?
GENE SMITH: No, I can’t at this point in time. I haven’t seen any pieces of paper.
Q. You formally announced it.
GENE SMITH: They did?
Q. Yes. I got the email.
GENE SMITH: I have not seen it (laughter).
Q. About the way you’re looking at the teams for the tournament down the road. Over the years it seems like it’s changed from emphasizing the last 10 or 12 to the full body of work. This year, anything different there? For example, what are you looking at, like will November games count as much as any other games during the season?
GENE SMITH: I don’t really see any changes. I think the committees over the years have done a marvelous job, bringing us to this point where we have great focus. We’ve been blessed to have great teams that have emerged and have great tournaments in Final Fours.
We will continue to look at the total body of work. We will continue to put an emphasis on how did you do, where did you play, all those types of things. The November games are critical. They’re very important. When you have teams like Georgetown going to play at Old Dominion, you have the great games coming up, Kansas State beating Virginia Tech recently, all those games matter.
So we’ve started watching games and evaluating teams right now. We’ll continue all the way through selection. I don’t think there’s anything new that we’ll do. I just think what the committee has done over the years has brought us to a point where we have good mechanisms in place and good strategies, make sure we serve our membership the right way.
Pretty pleased with what we’ve inherited.
DAVID WORLOCK: We have an email question. The question is: With the Final Four being at Reliant Stadium at Houston, the assumption is for the third straight year the center court seating will be in place to accommodate larger crowds. Is the committee pleased with the seating configuration format and what has been done to look at that going into future Final Fours?
GENE SMITH: I think we’re very excited about it. The first year we were able to get good feedback from the schools that participated. We’ve tweaked little things. We’re excited about going to Houston, being Reliant Stadium. It just provides a great opportunity for other people to have a chance to come to the games and see the games and experience the excitement of the entire weekend.
We’ll continue to do that. Once the Final Four is over in Houston, we’ll sit down with the participating schools and get feedback from them on things that we can do better and try to continue to improve the operation of it.
But we’re excited about it. Fans have been excited about it. The student sections have worked better than many of us thought. We initially went into it with some skepticism, like everyone else, but it’s emerged to be better than we imagined. Later on ask Brad to comment on it because he experienced it in Indianapolis, but we really enjoyed it.
DAVID WORLOCK: Thank you. With that, this concludes the portion of the teleconference with Gene Smith.
At this time we would like to welcome Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski to the call. In a moment, we can take calls for Coach Krzyzewski.
Coach, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule this afternoon.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you. I’m ready to go for questions.
DAVID WORLOCK: Since you were at the regional in Houston last year and have obviously played in the Final Four, the seating configuration, do you think there’s a benefit to having played at Reliant and what are your thoughts about accommodating more fans in this format?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: They did a great job at Reliant. What you’ve done one year then the next year, I don’t think that’s an advantage or a disadvantage. It’s a new year for every team.
I’m all in favor of the venues. Lucas Oil was unbelievable in Indianapolis, the way they had it arranged for the Final Four. Hopefully they’ll have Reliant set up the same way. It was magical really. The more fans, the better.
DAVID WORLOCK: Thank you, coach. At this time we can take questions from the media.
Q. Mike, as long as you’ve been doing this, I assume you knew Tom Jernstedt pretty well. Could you address what’s been lost with his exit from the NCAA.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, first of all, what was gained for four decades should be looked at. That’s amazing work, commitment, vision. Tom really helped build this tournament to where it is today. In fact, this Sunday he’ll be honored by being inducted into our College Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City.
He left a great legacy, fertile ground for people to grow the tournament even more. He’s a good friend, great friend. He’s a great friend of the game.
Q. Mike, I asked Gene Smith about this. Looking back at last year’s tournament, Butler in particular, Northern Iowa, teams that although their conferences are not as highly regarded as some absolutely dominated, 28 4 for both teams, I wonder if you think that the committee needs to give more weight in selection and seeding to teams that show that kind of dominance regardless of whether their league is as prominent?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, first of all, I would hope the committee would always reward the regular season champions in leagues because they’ve done it over a period of time, Butler specifically. I mean, Butler, in addition to playing in their conference, goes out and plays a very, very competitive non conference schedule. You’re able to see a full body of work. I think if you don’t see that full body of work for a team that has that record, where their non conference was not as challenging, then it is suspect as far as seeding.
Once they’ve done the body of work, they should be given every consideration that they deserve that. They deserve high seeding. Every team has to have a full body of work.
Q. The NCAA is studying the summer recruiting period. I’m wondering what you would like to see happen with that.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: First of all, I’d like to see legislation not put forward without input from coaches. This summer the conference commissioners voted to get rid of summer recruiting, and there wasn’t anybody from basketball representing the game at that meeting, which sometimes is the reason that poor legislation is passed concerning our game. We should always have a representative of basketball at committee meetings where they’re deciding things about our game.
Summer recruiting is essential for schools of all levels. I think the amount of money that you would have to put into it if you didn’t have summer recruiting would be immense because you get to see so many kids during a short period of time in one area.
So it’s essential. What we do with it, I mean, it should be a consensus with the coaches and our administrators as to what is best for our game. You’re going to have to do something in the summer, there’s no question about it.
Q. If it were cut back, or eliminated, is that an opportunity for USA Basketball to extend more opportunities for kids?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. But then if you did that, you still wouldn’t let coaches go out and see USA Basketball. USA Basketball should be part of the solution.
If people would cut out summer recruiting, it would be a huge mistake. Now, what we do with it, how we go forward, let’s figure out what’s in the best interest of our game, what’s in the best interest of all the schools involved.
You’re going to need to go out in the summer. Kids are going to play in the summer. You’re going to need to go out or else you’re going to have to deal with more people who have no restrictions. They’re not answerable to any authorities as far as academic authorities.
Less access that we put in the early ’90s proved to be poor for the game. To have further less access, you know, would be utterly ridiculous to do. We should have learned our lesson from that.
Q. Gene Smith was talking earlier about informal conversations about a possible opening weekend to college basketball. What are your thoughts on something like that?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I’d be in favor of that. I think what happened yesterday was great for the game. It actually felt like the start of the basketball season. People watched those games, and they were great games.
We should have an official start to the season and not let it start from November 4th or 8th. Nobody really knows when it starts. To kick it off like that was tremendous. That was a tremendous thing ESPN did. For all the teams that were involved, especially those not in tournaments, to play those level of games, I admire and compliment those coaches and schools for doing it.
Q. How is this team different from last year’s, in your opinion? What does this team need to do to be a Final Four team like last year?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, this team has probably got more natural talent, but a lot less experience. We started three seniors and two juniors last year. That was my oldest team in I don’t know how many years.
This year we have two seniors and one junior, the rest are freshmen and sophomores. That’s the biggest difference. We need to gain experience, competitive experience, as individuals but also as a group.
There’s a big difference between the two teams in style of play. The character of the kids is the same, but we just need to get more experience as the year goes along, and we will.
Q. How much are you relying on guys like Seth Curry and Irving?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, Seth Curry and Irving are excellent players. Seth has been out for a year, so he’s a sophomore. Kyrie, he just played his first two college games.
They’re very talented. They just need to learn about the college game, and they will because of the schedule that we play. But they’re good players and great kids. Hopefully by March they’ll be at a high level.
Q. I understand some Butler leaders visited the Duke campus this summer to get some ideas of how to build their basketball program based on the foundation of some of the things you do. What kind of things were discussed at that meeting?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know what, I did not meet with them because I was involved with USA Basketball. I know they had really good talks with our athletic director, some of our coaches, our associate athletic director who kind of runs all the administrative stuff for our program. It was really a good day. They’re great people. It was a good sharing of ideas with them, but I was not involved in the discussions.
DAVID WORLOCK: That concludes our portion of the teleconference with Coach Krzyzewski. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your time today. Thank you so much and best of luck this season.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you very much.
DAVID WORLOCK: At this time we’d like to introduce coach Brad Stevens of Butler University.
Coach, the first question we have via email is to talk about the impact not only on your team and program but also on the university of advancing to the national championship game, how that impacted the entire campus community.
BRAD STEVENS: Obviously, I think it’s impacted the entire Butler community in a lot of positive ways. I don’t know that we can gauge the impact yet. I think that will be probably 15 years from now you may be able to sit down and have a better feel for that.
Certainly with regard to awareness globally of Butler, there is a lot more than before, and that’s a positive thing.
DAVID WORLOCK: We’ll take questions for Coach Stevens.
Q. Brad, people have discussed the possibility of an opening day or opening week in college basketball. What are your thoughts on that? Would you like to see something like that happen?
BRAD STEVENS: Yeah, I think it’s really good. I say I’d like to see us play a little bit better when we open a place like yesterday. But I think it’s a great thing for college basketball. It brings awareness to college basketball. I think people get excited about it.
Like Coach Krzyzewski said, people now know that the season has kicked off. I think sometimes towards the waning parts of the football season, or at least the regular season, all of a sudden pops up a college basketball game. It’s like, I didn’t realize that was going on.
I think it’s a really positive thing. Again, I echo the sentiments of Gene and Coach K that said yesterday ESPN deserves a lot of credit for bringing that to light.
Q. What did you learn, if anything, about your team last night? Your non conference game against Duke is two weeks away. What do you need to do to get ready?
BRAD STEVENS: I think we need to get better in the next two weeks actually, the next three days. Our entire focus and attention has to be on our team improving, then we’ll see if we can do what we do a little bit better. I think that’s the bottom line.
It’s November 17th. You have to keep that in mind. At the same time, you can’t chalk it up as an experience you’re automatically going to get better from. You have to learn and grow. That’s part of the process. Good teams learn and grow. Other teams have moments. We want to be a team that has those moments fairly consistently.
DAVID WORLOCK: We have another email question for Coach Stevens. Your philosophy on scheduling has been pretty aggressive, seemingly playing anyone, anywhere. Obviously that holds true this year with a challenging non conference schedule. Have you found it difficult, with the success of last year, to continue to schedule quality opponents particularly at home?
BRAD STEVENS: No, I think the increasing awareness has helped us schedule probably more than hinder us. TV has become more involved in our schedule. They want us to play in games. We’re basically set for in next year with another loaded non conference schedule.
The people who have to deal with the true ups and downs are in our program because there can be some difficult things right out of the gate that you better be prepared for. Again, it’s really important that we keep perspective on where we are in the season and where we need to go and everything else because one of the things I do think we benefit from in this schedule is on December 25th, when we’re home for a couple days over Christmas break, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we need to improve on because we’ve probably been exposed. That was the case last year. We got a lot better. Towards the end of the year, we were playing a lot better.
Certainly we’d like to play well. We need to play a lot better. But at the same time the most important thing right now is to grow.
Q. I’m guessing you heard Mike Krzyzewski’s answer about summer recruiting.
BRAD STEVENS: Completely agree.
Q. If you could elaborate a little bit on that topic.
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I’ve been in plenty of discussions with different coaches and people around. I think the key, like Coach K said, is more access, not less access. I think we all agree on that.
We certainly can’t eliminate the July period. But if we can come up with a way to make it whether it means you have more access to juniors, you get more calls, whatever the case may be, then if you want to limit July or cut July back by a couple of days, add a weekend or two in April, have all kinds of scenarios that work. But you have to make it so we can watch these games, watch these kids all in one place or at least in a few different places. It’s very cost effective. I think it’s the right thing for us to do. I think it’s the right way to go.
I don’t think you can, again, I don’t know that 20 days is the right thing. I think that’s a bit much personally because I think kids are tired, coaches are tired. It’s well documented how unhealthy the whole month is from that regard. If you could knock it back a couple days and add a couple days in April, I’d be all for it.
Q. Some have talked about how less access coaches have, other people fill in the gaps.
BRAD STEVENS: No question.
Q. Why isn’t that incredibly obvious?
BRAD STEVENS: I think it is. I think we’re starting to talk about it. I think it’s the same argument why a lot of us talk about more access to our players that are currently in our programs so that we can, while they’re in summer school, whether it be work them out, whether it be spending more time with them, I think that’s a big deal.
I hope that we get more access across the board as we continue to look at new legislation, we continue to be creative to figure out different ways to make that better. I think the more access you have to recruits with regard to getting to know them, for them getting to know you, the better retention will be, the better APR will be, the better chance will be of finding right fits for your program.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about going to 68 teams this year. Does it help teams like Butler across the country?
BRAD STEVENS: It helps four teams. I don’t know which four teams it helps. I don’t know they’re in any given league. I found it to be the case, I think they look at it really objectively and he addressed that. What we try to do is we try to go out and schedule the best schedule that we possibly can, which in the coaching fraternity they call me crazy for doing that, so that we at least have a shot to qualify for the tournament in two ways.
At the end of the day it’s going to be the next four best teams, and certainly there’s going to be some arguments, there’s always going to be No. 69 and 70. But four more teams have a chance to get in. I don’t think it necessarily helps one program or another. I think it’s just whoever those four teams are.
DAVID WORLOCK: Coach Stevens, we thank you for your time this afternoon, to take time out of your schedule today and join us is much appreciated. We know you’ve been on the line for about 45 minutes, so we’re going to let you go and wish you best of luck the rest of the season.
BRAD STEVENS: Thanks a lot.
DAVID WORLOCK: At this point we do have one question for Gene Smith. The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee met at its fall meeting last week in New Orleans. Part of the agenda included a meeting from folks from Turner and CBS. Talk about that portion of the meeting, how the level of excitement, the new look of tournament will take shape given the new agreement with Turner and CBS for coverage of the championship beginning in 2011.
GENE SMITH: The first thing that was evident was you had two groups of people, two corporations, coming together, really merging in a great way, in a collaborative way, demonstrating a cohesiveness and like thought on what we needed to do together to make sure that our student athletes, coaches and fans were served properly.
We’re excited about how they came to us with the thought of coming together and having all of our games be shown nationally. When you have the platforms we have now, with Turner’s addition to CBS, everybody will have the opportunity to find their games they’re interested in. There will be improvement in digital. March Madness On Demand will grow. We’re excited about sitting and listening to their ideas and we’ll continue to work with them.
It’s a work in progress. It’s a process where we have to keep talking with them, and we’ll do that as we move forward and continue to make the tournament better.
DAVID WORLOCK: Thank you, Gene.
With that, that concludes this afternoon’s teleconference. Again, we want to thank Gene Smith, as well as Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Stevens of Duke and Butler respectively. We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy these meaningful basketball games that are coming ahead in the days and months. Thanks, and we’ll talk to you again soon.