As expected, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors has approved a proposal to expand the Men’s Basketball Championship field to 68 teams from 65. The move follows the recent signing of a 14-year, $10.8 billion TV deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting System.
The addition of three teams will provide for an opening-round game in each of the four bracket regions. Board members said expanding the tournament will provide additional opportunities for student-athletes to participate in championship competition and will remove the “stigma” of the single opening-round game. The Board said it did not discuss expanding beyond 68 teams.
“Expanding to 68 teams gave us an opportunity to involve more teams in the championship, and in doing that, we were able to enhance the experience of the opening-round game,” said board chair James Barker, President at Clemson. “Expansion enables us to give more exposure to the universities and provide more opportunities for student-athletes.”
At the direction of the Board, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is charged with determining the most appropriate values-based structure and composition to determine the eight teams that will participate in these games and additional issues, such as location of the games and timing.
“We’re pleased that the Board of Directors approved our recommendation to expand the tournament field from 65 to 68 teams and grateful to be charged with finding an appropriate solution to account for these additional participants,” said Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletics director and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. “We will spend the next two months studying various options and garnering feedback from the membership in an effort to finalize a format for the four opening-round games that makes the most sense for everyone involved.”