Lately, there’s been speculation regarding the start of the college basketball season being pushed back to mid-December, from its current mid-November tip-off. The idea has been floating around for a while, but is just now getting the national attention it deserves. It’s picked up steam since people such as (already widely criticized) Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott endorsed the idea, and NCAA Men’s Basketball VP Dan Gavitt has addressed it as well.
This is how the proposal would essentially work: tip-off would start after the first semester of the school year ends, which is somewhere in the middle of December though precise dates vary by school. Since the season will start later, the season will end later–ultimately pushing the tournament back a month to April or early May. In other words, no more March Madness! The primary reason is reportedly to lessen the overlap with NFL and college football seasons, though Scott has alluded to Major League Baseball as well (a possible game 7 of the World Series would land on November 4th).
Though a majority may say this is an ill-advised shift, it actually does have some upside. It would do exactly what it’s aimed to do, which is give college basketball the increased regular season ratings it supposedly needs to stay relevant. In addition, players who are academically ineligible because of their fall semester grades would be eligible to play without missing any games. And of course, if you’re an avid sports fan, it gives you the chance to watch college hoops in peace without the pressure of missing an important football game.
However, the cons outweigh the pros. The college basketball season will still coincide with the NHL and NBA seasons. More importantly, the NCAA tournament would start in April, which is when the NBA and NHL playoffs start. How will the NCAA tourney retain its desired ratings when its games air at the same time as NBA or NHL playoff games? The NBA and NHL are still half of the ‘big four’ of North American professional sports. Overlapping with their playoffs somewhat defeats the purpose of pushing the start of the season back. Another problem with the later start date is that regular season schedules will likely become more condensed. A more concentrated schedule means more travel and less time for academics, as well as more stress on the athletes. This will make Division I basketball even more of a full-time job, as which point they as well start getting paid.
Lastly, we have to consider that the tournament often holds many of its games at professional sports arenas. The NCAA negotiates years in advance with professional teams to book game facilities for the tournament; if the tournament is pushed back and is in conflict with an NHL or NBA playoff schedule, how would this negotiations?
“There’s definitely a portion of the membership that thinks it’s worthy of consideration,’’ Gavitt said to the San Jose Mercury News. “There are merits on a lot of levels.’’ This proposed change is far from a cure-all, but it could be interesting to see how it would work. Then again, ‘March Madness’ has a better ring to it than ‘April Madness.’ We will see.