We have all heard about it but, like unicorns, Bigfoot or a flattering photo from a low angle, it does not exist and never has: the level playing field. In college basketball, we talk a lot about competitive balance and how "unfair" it all can be. We love the occasional upset in the NCAA tournament but, given the disparity in money and talent throughout Division I, we lament how the "little guy" has little chance to win against the big shots. And many seem to think that it is unfair for the little guy without resources to have to compete against the big guy with seemingly unlimited resources.
We hear it all the time. The big guys won't play the little guys on the road. The blue bloods won't play anything but home games and neutral-court games. But the little guy understands the market and now demands an unreasonable amount of "guarantee" games. The little guy cannot get on TV or get media exposure. But nobody watches such games when they are on TV, and so few little guys have capitalized on NCAA tournament success to be nationally relevant that it is a nonstarter. The NCAA tournament has become the Holy Grail of college basketball, and the regular season has become irrelevant and almost meaningless.
All the while, NCAA administrators talk in highbrow terms about reform and a return to the values of higher education. They talk about "getting back" to what college sports are supposed to be about. We talk about students who just happen to be athletes.
It is time to seriously consider making Division I smaller, streamlined and therefore more competitive and meaningful.
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