Though he'd just been through the verbal equivalent of a Manny Pacquiao TKO, as media covering the Final Four had pounded him over proposed NCAA Tournament expansion, Shaheen somehow was able to retain the wry sense of humor he'd carried into the afternoon.
He called himself "the most hated man in college sports" with some sense of irony — and though everybody in the group chuckled, nobody corrected him.
Now, he is college basketball's hero. It might have been Duke's Kyle Singler on April 5, but the rest of the offseason will belong to Shaheen, interim NCAA president Jim Isch and the other staff members who secured a $10.8 billion broadcast contract with CBS and Turner Sports for the NCAA Tournament without perverting the nature of the event.
"I don't know that we could have hoped for a better landing out of all this," said Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski, a member of the men's basketball committee. "This was extremely well done by Greg and Jim Isch. They were willing to take some real shots along the way to protect the negotiation process. They did an unbelievable job.'
What those who believe in college basketball desired throughout this process was for those in charge to protect the integrity of the regular season and the character of the NCAA Tournament as it has existed for the past quarter-century — the period of time during which the game and the event reached their greatest popularity.
Turns out, they were listening. Nobody came out and said the public's revulsion at the prospect of a 96-team field was a factor in settling on 68, but if you'd loved the idea like chocolate-chip cookies, we'd be talking about a far different NCAA Tournament next March.
Now, both Sean McManus of CBS Sports and David Levy of Turner assure us 68 is workable for them. "We are very comfortable at 68," McManus said. "That's what the deal is based on. It meets all of our needs."
You're still going to encounter some media skepticism about whether the field will be 68 teams only for 2011 and then the expansionists will get busy again.
Some already are wondering why Turner needs to be in the deal if it's not about a 96-team field, a question for which there are multiple answers. First, CBS was not comfortable with how the old contract was working for the network economically, and bringing in a partner helps defray the cost. Second, the basketball committee long had desired a means by which all games in the tournament could be broadcast nationally, rather than so many in the first three rounds being regional telecasts.
The agnostics also will remind you this process is not complete, that the NCAA board of directors must approve the expansion to 68 at its meeting next Thursday.
And though anything is possible in a world where a volcano can shut down all of northern Europe's air traffic and Kate Gosselin is a "star," the university presidents are being handed an 11-figure contract — that's right, $10.8 billion is 11 freaking figures — for a 68-team tournament. You really think they won't sign?
"What obviously we will do is share with them the knowledge we have gained," Isch said. "We will also inform them of the various committee positions. And then we'll have a discussion and decide from there. Given the men's basketball committee recommendation of 68, that's probably where we'll be."
The only impetus for a 96-team tournament now comes from the coaches. Memphis coach Josh Pastner called the move to 68 teams "positive," though like many coaches he preferred a more dramatic expansion. They'd allowed themselves to be convinced a larger field would have helped save coaching jobs.
With a 96-team field, though, coaches unable to meet such a low standard might have had a tough time maintaining they were worth big money.
It's premature to say we'll never know which side of that argument is in the right. But we can celebrate a bit knowing it'll probably be years before we have to revisit the debate.
CBT: Turning the page on the Mike Rice scandal, Rutgers hired Louisville's Julie Hermann as athletic director on Wednesday. But, Hermann has a prior scandal of her own.
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