Can’t they just leave well enough alone?
The United States is a mighty fine country, for sure, but we Americans do have a certain knack for screwing up a good thing. There seems to be an unwritten law in the Constitution that everything which is great in our nation CAN and WILL be ruined.
What is really sickening about this process is that such change often is not motivated by a desire to improve an entity or process — but money, the usual suspect in these cases.
I thought it was bad enough when those in control of our beloved Atlantic Coast Conference saw fit to expand the league to 12 teams. That largely was done to increase football game revenues and allow what was a regional conference to tap into the Miami and Boston media markets.
Call me old-fashioned, but in my opinion, this move might have caused the cash drawers to jingle more, but it has ruined what was a great sports league. And the change points to another problem in American society, the notion that bigger is always better.
When the ACC was an eight-member conference, it ensured that there would always be an even number of teams for tournaments and the like. During the first round of the annual ACC Basketball Tournament, which got under way Thursday in Greensboro, all teams once were in action on the same day. But the 12-team field requires the four top seeds to wait around an extra day to play their first tournament game.
Depending on who you ask, this is either a disservice to those squads that have sat and are a bit rusty, or those with a game already under their belts which could make them a little tired.
The expansion also required ACC football to split into two divisions, the winners of which play for the conference championship each fall. That also means league members will not play all other league members during the course of the season.
But the ACC was bound and determined to expand and match what other alliances such as the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences had done, which highlights another troubling trait: doing something because everybody else is doing so.
Now there is talk of expanding the NCAA “March Madness” tournament from 65 to 96 teams. I strongly suspect that the people who are in charge of North Carolina’s high school playoff system and its 256-team format have now gone national.
Over the years, we’ve gradually seen the tourney field expand, from the days when only the tournament champion of a conference was allowed to advance to the national college basketball showcase.
Then the number went to 48, and later to 64, which was THE limit for most sports fans. Subsequently, the field was expanded to the ridiculous number of 65, thereby creating a “play-in” game that allowed an extra school which might otherwise have been left out to compete.
Again, the spark behind the 96-team idea is the extra dollars to be realized from the additional games resulting from a tourney expansion. On the other hand, it would make conference tournaments such as those held by the ACC even more meaningless than they already are by diminishing the motivation for finishing strongly at those events.
If National Collegiate Athletic Association officials are going to take the step of expanding the basketball tournament to 96 schools, I would advocate going ahead and opening up the event to every college in America and being done with the matter.
Of course, that probably would make the tournament last for two months. But who cares as long as those cash registers are ringing?
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 719-1924.