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Doyel: Desperate to save itself, NCAA used NIT to sell out 200 of its smallest schools


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The NCAA is greedy and gutless and deserves whatever happens to it someday, but because a complete rundown of reasons would fill this newspaper, let’s just stick to what the NCAA has done in recent days when it crushed schools like Towson and Nicholls to pander some more to the Power 5.

If you missed it, well, that was the NCAA’s hope. The NCAA admitted what it had done on Friday afternoon, what’s known in the communications industry as a “news dump.” A news dump happens when a gutless organization has done something ugly, but hopes most of us in the media — and most of you, in the real world — have a life and have checked out for the day. Then comes the weekend, and by Monday, whatever happened Friday is old news.

What did the NCAA do that was so ugly? You’ll have to put on your empathy hat to understand, because most folks don’t care about National Invitation Tournament or the way teams are invited. For example, did you know the NCAA operates the NIT? Did you know the 2024 NIT semifinals and title game will be held at Hinkle Fieldhouse?

Probably not, because who cares — and most years, I’m with you. The NIT’s move to Hinkle Fieldhouse came as news to me as I was reporting the story you’re reading now. Been here nine years and have gone to exactly, hmmmm, one NIT game. And only to urge Romeo Langford to stay in school in 2019.

Well, there also was that story in 2017, when IU turned down an invitation to host an NIT game, because Tom Crean had lost it and IU basketball fans were losing it and the school didn’t want a national television audience to hear Assembly Hall booing its coach. Not just to play in that tournament.

Because nobody cares about that tournament.

That doesn’t make it right, what the NCAA has done. And it damn sure doesn’t excuse the way the NCAA went about it, or the naked greed behind it. All of this is really disappointing, because in December the NCAA introduced a new president, former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.


The last guy, Mark Emmert, not only stood in the way of college players being paid the pocket money that would’ve satisfied them, but had the gall to line the NCAA’s pockets off the players’ fame. Because of that, because Emmert’s NCAA was so hypocritical, dominoes started falling that led to the current NIL bidding wars that have turned the rest of college athletics into SEC football:

Professional sports, in other words.

That’s what the last guy, Emmert, did. The new guy? Baker? He’s the guy who just ticked off the NCAA’s last powerful friend — the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

All for the NIT.

And nobody even cares about that tournament.

NCAA must think you're stupid

The NCAA was slow to catch on, because for decades it was too busy eating grapes and fiddling on the White River while its future burned, but the NCAA finally understands what is happening:

When the biggest schools break away to keep all that College Football Playoff money, the NCAA will go out of business. That means all those pretty salaries for all those fancy folks at the NCAA’s office on the White River are in danger. And while the NCAA has never been brave enough to provide for its student-athletes or protect the integrity of its two biggest sports, now the NCAA has gone completely spineless.

That Friday news dump, see, was scheduled to hide the true cowardice of the news involved:

The NCAA hopes to use NIT bids to curry favor from a handful Power 5 schools, at the cost of its 200 smallest schools. It’s like this:

Used to be, conference regular-season champions earned an automatic bid into the NIT, assuming they didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. Seeing how most of the NCAA’s 32 conferences are what we call “one-bid leagues,” that means most conferences have been playing for more than that magical, miracle shot at One Shining Moment. The regular season mattered for leagues like the MAAC and Horizon and Ohio Valley. Finish atop the league standings, and you were going at least to the NIT.

Not anymore. The NCAA announced Friday: “Conference regular-season champions that do not win their conference tournament or are not otherwise selected to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship will not receive an automatic bid to the NIT.”

It gets worse.

“Instead,” the announcement continued, “the NIT will guarantee two teams (based on the NET rankings) from each of six conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern).”

Technically, according to the press release, the announcement was made by the “NIT Board of Managers.” See, the NCAA wants you to think it wasn’t them. The NIT did this!

The NCAA hopes you don’t realize the NCAA runs the NIT.

Meanwhile, the reason behind this move was buried at the bottom of the release. Second-to-last sentence:

“All NIT games can be found exclusively on ESPN platforms.”

(more Doyel ranting follows)

Yep, the NCAA is not long for this world.  

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