April 29, 2010

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The NCAA News

The Division I Board of Directors on Thursday approved a plan to expand the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship field to 68 teams from the current 65-team bracket.

The action, which was recommended by the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, was advanced to the Board a week ago when the NCAA announced a new broadcast rights deal with Turner Broadcasting and CBS Sports. Earlier this year, the Board indicated it would act on any field-expansion recommendations. The 14-year, $10.8-billion agreement with CBS and Turner was not contingent upon the Board’s decision on expansion.

Board members said expanding the tournament will provide additional opportunities for student-athletes to participate in championship competition and will remove the “stigma” of the single opening-round game. The Board did not discuss expanding beyond 68 teams.

“Expanding to 68 teams gave us an opportunity to involve more teams in the championship, and in doing that, we were able to enhance the experience of the opening-round game,” said Board chair James Barker, president at Clemson. “Expansion enables us to give more exposure to the universities and provide more opportunities for student-athletes.”

The addition of three teams will provide for an opening-round game in each of the four bracket regions. Before agreeing to expand the tournament, the Board discussed some of the options as to how the additional teams would be added, with concern for maintaining the integrity of the bracket and for providing more opportunities to mid-major teams.

At the direction of the Board, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is charged with determining the most appropriate values-based structure and composition to determine the eight teams that will participate in these games and additional issues, such as location of the games and timing.

“We’re pleased that the Board of Directors approved our recommendation to expand the tournament field from 65 to 68 teams and grateful to be charged with finding an appropriate solution to account for these additional participants,” said Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletics director and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. “We will spend the next two months studying various options and garnering feedback from the membership in an effort to finalize a format for the four opening-round games that makes the most sense for everyone involved.”

The committee will consider fairness, travel, team placement and missed class time when designing the structure for expansion. The group is expected to complete its work this summer.

The basketball committee will continue to have the responsibility for selecting, seeding and bracketing the field. The Board will make any decisions about future expansion. The championship last expanded to 65 teams in 2001 and had expanded to 64 in 1985.