By admin | April 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
The NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the great events in all of sports. It is one of the few things that is seemingly perfect. Each year 65 teams live out their hopes, dreams and disappointments right before the eyes of an enthralled college sports public.
However, if rumors are to be believed, the tournament is about to undergo a transformation. Apparently, there are about to be 96 teams living out those hopes, dreams and disappointments. Surely if the 65 team field is perfect then a 96 team field will be more perfect, right?
Before the NCAA makes the move to expand its tournament they might want to consider what happened when NASCAR decide to expand its reach and change something that was working pretty well.
In the 1990s NASCAR began to leave tracks and locales that had been a part of the sport for many years in order to establish a niche in more glamorous and more populated areas. Like the NCAA, they wanted to include more people believing that doing so would create more interest and thus bring in more dollars.
Itâ€™s logical to think that by moving into a previously untapped market more people will be exposed to the sport and eventually more people will be watching, right? Well, in NASCARâ€™s case that was wrong. Taking the sport to Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami at the expense of places like North Wilkesboro, Darlington and Rockingham did not suddenly bring in huge numbers of new fans. Now, in those new places NASCAR often stages races in front of more empty seats than filled ones.
And more, just like the scorned girlfriend who was left at the dance when the boy decided to try and dance with the prom queen, NASCARâ€™s old fan base has moved on to other things. Television ratings have been in a steady decline since the mid 2000s indicating many fans felt as though they were abandoned.
While the NCAA Tournament situation may not be an exact parallel, it is close enough that the comparison may well have some credibility. Taking a product that is working well and trying to make it bigger and better can backfire.
NASCAR had a product that was working well when it stayed close to its roots. Now, they are reaping the harvest of a poorly sown crop.
In the fervor of Mondayâ€™s exciting championship game and the improbable tournament run of an underdog, this may seem to be the opportune time to make a change. The NCAA may think it is logical that adding to something that is perfect will make it more perfect. That is not always the case.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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