NCAA orchestrates nearly everything during tournament
It’s late in the second half of a conference championship game. Your favorite team survives a final push by its opponent and is flooded by confetti as the players quickly don T-shirts and baseball caps that proclaim the hard-won championship.
Nets are cut down. Players give hasty interviews. The players, coaches and entourage leave the arena and go to eat heartily at a restaurant that offers cuisine other than fast food.
And that’s most of the fun in winning a league title and qualifying for the much-publicized NCAA tournament.
From the moment your team has done enough to get into the 68-team national tournament, the time it has to prepare on its own becomes severely limited. Soon enough, the players, coaches and involved personnel will gather together to watch the NCAA Selection Show on the Sunday before the media-explosive event begins.
The usual schedule sees the players dressed in apparel with team logos, munching on food as the NCAA brackets are unveiled. Loud cheers and happy faces are entwined with much back-slapping and high fives as your team draws a No. 4 seed and knows it will be playing a No. 13 seed two zones removed from their campus.
Your favorites will be playing in four days on a Thursday in an arena never visited by your coach or his teams.
On Monday, your team will try to digest all the scouting report material it will be spoon-fed. That Monday is the only day it will be holding a normal practice for its never-played, upcoming opponent.
On Tuesday, your team will hold a morning practice in its own arena. The NCAA has taken control of your movements.
Tuesday afternoon, you fly out to the site of your first game. That night, the NCAA holds its initial mandated media session and the players and coach talk to television and radio types as well as writers. The NCAA provides “light refreshments” in case those who haven’t eaten since breakfast feel the unruly need for food.
On Wednesday, the NCAA has an assigned practice time on the arena floor for your team. It never lasts more than 90 minutes and the national media, local media, beat writers and NCAA personnel alike all watch. The coach can’t do much more than get his players acclimated to the lighting, the baskets, where the benches are, the quality of the locker rooms and the time difference from his campus.
That night, the coaches can further impart knowledge of the opponent, show tapes of at least the last five games that team played, concentrate on individual opposing players and then send the troops off to bed for a decent night’s sleep.
Finally, the day of the game has arrived. Teams can schedule a morning shoot-around at the arena before an open host of people not connected in any way with your team.
The NCAA dictates when your team can arrive at the arena before the game. It takes great pains to make sure you don’t come onto the playing floor too soon. The player introductions are choreographed and orchestrated almost to the second.
Television now rules the NCAA tournament. Not the players. Not the coaches. Certainly not the universities or their administrations. Commercials seem more important than three-point field goals.
The coaches give mandatory interviews before the game, when they leave the floor at halftime and before the gathered media when the game has been completed. Players are herded here and there. Their time isn’t their own. The NCAA has tight control of everything – except maybe the final score.
Should your team survive the constrictions placed on it by the NCAA, it will go through much the same thing the next day, even though there’s only one day between the first and second rounds. A hurried, NCAA-controlled practice, with the media again watching. More talk with outsiders only interested in making their deadlines. Another welded-together and much-changed routine designed to accommodate only the NCAA’s wishes.
Welcome to the so-called “Big Dance.” Welcome to the world of hypocrites, self-important outsiders and people that don’t know you from Adam’s old house cat but who believe they should control you.
Here comes the opening tap, but only at 12:32 p.m. Central Daylight Time, and only after a scripted warm-up period that’s concerned only with what Coca Cola or Gillette or Cadillac might want.