Here's why I'm against expanding the field:
Saying "we went to the NCAA Tournament" would become less special. "So what? Everyone makes it" would be the response, like the NHL or NBA playoffs.
BCS schools would probably just get more bids, putting about 62-65 of their 76 teams in. And seeding would give the BCS more chances to advance to the "round of 64" (R64).
Non-BCS teams would have 20-26 FEWER teams into R64. Teams seeded 13-16 are losing a round earlier.
Let's say they doubled it to 128. Based on this year's NIT results, six more BCS teams get into R64 by beating non-BCS schools in the R128: Kansas St, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Va Tech, Auburn, Penn St all beat non-BCS teams.
Seven "mid-majors" would face R128 upset challenges from the BCS: BYU, Siena, Butler, Utah St, Dayton, Western Kentucky and Northern Iowa.
In a 96 team field, with 31 more bids, you've got 16 more "mid-majors." But now only Memphis, Xavier and Gonzaga have a bye to the round of 64. The rest half to play their way in. Sure, Siena, Butler, Utah State and Dayton would be playing teams that are currently 13-16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament (one-bid champs). But A) there's a chance of an upset. and B), 29 of the 32 teams with a bye are BCS teams with more time to scout.
That's LESS chance of Cinderella making the Sweet 16 than before. It's another hurdle in their path**
Right now, there's 125 shares of the TV money ($150 million pot). Each share is about $1.2m. You get one share for making the field, and one for each win up to the Final Four. It's paid over six years, but ignore that for a second.
In a 128-team field, there's 252 shares of the TV money. Even if the TV money went up to $202 million (four weekends instead of three) now shares are worth only $800k.
In a 96-team field, the money gets complicated. They'd either give a half share for making the field, and half share for winning the R96 game, with a half share for getting a bye. That's 140 shares (at $144,000 each; Assuming the pot then is $202 million because they could spread the 32 R96 games over four days and get a full weekend of programing).
More money is going to go to BCS schools. Based on this year's NCAA tournament field/NIT field, projecting some results:
65-team NCAA Tournament:
29 Non-BCS teams, 7 R64 wins, 3 Sweet 16 teams, 0 Elite 8 teams. 39 shares ($46.8m)
36 BCS teams, 25 R64 wins, 13 Sweet 16, 8 Elite Eight teams, 4 Final Four. 86 shares ($103.2m)
96 team NCAA Tournament
45 Non-BCS teams, 16 R96 wins, 7 R64 wins, 3 Sweet 16 teams, 0 Elite 8 teams, 42 shares ($60.5m)
51 BCS teams, 16 R96 wins, 25 R64 wins, 13 Sweet 16, 8 Elite Eight teams, 4 Final Four, 98 shares ($141.5m)
128 team NCAA Tournament:
70 Non-BCS teams, 16 R128 wins, 7 R64 wins, 3 Sweet 16 teams, 0 Elite Eight team. 95 shares ($76.8m)
58 BCS teams, 48 R128 wins, 25 R64 wins, 13 Sweet 16, 8 Elite Eight teams, 4 Final Four. 156 shares ($124.2m)
The BCS is raking in money. Now, each conference divides its money a different way, but the vast majority of Tournament purse is going to the 76 BCS teams, and very little to the 271 non-BCS schools.
Assuming each conference divides the loot evenly:
65-team: $1.4 million per BCS team, $172,000 per non-BCS school.
96-team: $1.94 million per BCS team, $222,000 per non-BCS school.
128-team: $1.7 million per BCS team, $283,000 per non-BCS school.
(Now, I know it doesn't work this way, in reality, you've got the one-bid leagues splitting $1.2 million per year among their membership, and conferences like the A-10 with fluctuating yearly revenues, splitting their shares where the school who earns it keeps it).
But any way you slice it, the rich get richer by expanding the field; and it's harder for Cinderella to make the Sweet 16**
The other thing it does is CEMENT the premise that the 6th-10th place teams in BCS conferences are better... because they are going to the NCAA tournament EVERY SINGLE YEAR. They'd be sending 58 of 73 teams this year.
And if you're in the BCS, you simply adjust to get more teams in: Reduce your conference schedule to 14 games. Now, you can have your last place team schedule the worst 14 teams in the country, and if they go 2-12 in conference, they could conceivably get in. Their RPI will be high enough solely because they are in a BCS conference. They could conceivably put all 73 teams in every year.
** Yeah, at least they're in a bigger field and not out of a smaller one, but there's a better way to fix it.
An excellent post, but one I'd like to address point by point.
You'd still have to win 2/3 of your games to make the field, win greater than +1 in conference, and still have a reasonable RPI for tie breakers. Ultimately, you are talking about 96 teams out of what 341? That is 28%. That is not an accomplishment? If the NFL was so selective only 9 team would make the playoffs. It would still be a huge deal.
In the 96 team scenario I am suggesting, conferences would be limited at 40-45% (ie. less than half) of their membership making it, so the most the BCS schools could get in would be 40-45% of their membership; specifically, no more than 31 out of their 73 schools.
[Somehow I ended up with 32 FBS schools in the alternative BCS instead of the 31 schools max that my 40-45% rule lays out.
Atlantic Coast Conference (12 teams); max teams = 5 (as 6 would be 50%)
Big 12 Conference (12 teams); max teams = 5 (as 6 would be 50%)
Big East Conference (16 teams); max teams = 7 (as 8 would be 50%)
Big Ten Conference (11 teams); max teams = 5 (as 6 would be 55%)
Pacific-10 Conference (10 teams); max teams = 4 (as 5 would be 50%)
Southeastern Conference (12 teams); max teams = 5 (as 6 would be 50%)
that totals a maxium of 31 slots.
I'll have to figure out where I went wrong, but for now lets run with it...]
The cream of the BCS would make it and would still dominate the tournament, but this is about presenting opportunities for deserving small conference teams to EARN their money, not weird meritless liberal forced equality.
Additionally, You are missing that in my proposal all 32 (including the GW) DI schools would get a regular season champion into the tourney with a play in bye, so 26 non-BCS conferences get a bye into the 64 round for their best candidate to make a run.
Currently there are 127 shares = 64 first round participants + 32 second round+ 16 thrid round+8 Fourth round + 4 fifth round+ 2 Finalists + 1 champion share. (I THINK the play in teams are playing to earn their first round share currently.)
Lets say TV went up to 202M as you suggest for the 96 team tourney, rather than having 127 tourney team/games to divide 150M between. The goal has to be, to have the traditional share for making the tourney outweigh what you could get from winning a play in round while allowing teams that win the play in round to earn more than teams that lose.
Lets say 64 teams participating in the play in + 32 teams winning = 96 team/game shares.
Lets say you have the added 52M to divide between the 96 team/game shares in the play in round. $541,667 per team/game share or $541,667 per losing team; $1,083,333 per winning team. That still is problematic as a team that wins it's way in would get $1,083,333 for participating in the play in round and then get ANOTHER full share for making the field of 64. But supposing we eliminate their first round share for play-in teams....
32 first round participants who were regular season Champions + 32 second round+ 16 thrid round+8 Fourth round + 4 fifth round+ 2 Finalists + 1 champion share = 95 game/team shares of the 150M for the tourney proper@ $1,578,947 per team/game share for the tourney proper.
This would reward a regular season champ with a bye AND the chance to earn the difference between a play in victory total ($1,083,333) and a bye share ($1,578,947) = an added $495,614 bonus for winning the regular season championship.
Now looking at the alternative proposal results...
96 team NCAA Tournament
64 Non-BCS teams, 38 R96 participants, 16 R96 wins, ($29,250,018) + 26 R64 reg season champs, 15 R32 participants, 5 Sweet 16 teams, 2 Elite 8 teams, 1 Final Four team = 49 regular tourney shares for an added ($77,368,403) bringing the non-BCS total to $106,618,421, or on average $4,100,007 per non BCS conference, or $397,829 on average for each of their 268 schools.
32 BCS teams, 26 R96 participants, 16 R96 wins, ($22,750,014) + 6 R64 reg season champs, 17 R32 participants, 11 Sweet 16, 6 Elite Eight teams, 3 Final Four teams, 2 Finalists, 1 Champion = 46 regular tourney shares for an added ($72,631,562)bringing the BCS total to $95,381,576, or on average $15,896,929 per conference, or $1,306,596 on average for each of their 73 schools.
again, for the 96 team proposal that is on average:
$15,896,929 per BCS conference, $1,306,596 per BCS team
$4,100,007 per non BCS conference, $397,829 per non-BCS school
vs. your numbers in the existing 65 team tourney
$103.2M = $17.2M per BCS conference, $1,413,698 per BCS team
$46.8M = $1.8M per non-BCS conference, $174,626 per non-BCS school
(The above numbers are slightly off due to me inexplicably putting 32 BCS schools in, instead of their max of 31, but gives you a good idea of how much money the small schools are potentially leaving on the table by not taking up their complaints with the TV folks.)
With regards to the idea that Cinderella would have a harder time, I disagree. I think Davidson, St. Mary's, & SDSU all were capable of making long tourney runs --- beating most teams outside of the top 16 --- BUT THEY WEREN'T LET INTO THE BALL. Every year there are deserving small schools who either get a crappy seed their season record suggests they don't deserve and are early victims of the top 16 or like Davidson, St. Mary's, & SDSU don't even make the field.
Lets get very clear what we are mostly discussing for everyone else. I get very passionate about deserving teams having a chance to succeed, but there is a larger arguement that the non-BCS schools really care about more. We are talking about eliminating the BCS schools' ability to soak up tourney revenue by putting their also-rans, instead of the cream of small conferences, into the role of "team likely to be creamed by the top 16". It is all about representation in the 64, 32, and 16 rounds and the revenue that brings.
Although adding the play-in round helps improve competitiveness in the tourney, adds another week of top tv, as well as adds to the non-BCS revenue stream.