The NCAA is so damaging to college athletics that a list of its misdeeds would take a large book. While its primary function seems to be to exploit college basketball and football players to make as much money out of them as colleges can without equivalent compensation, March Madness is a close second. It completely eviscerates the reason for a regular season, making the games meaningless over and above who won each particular game. Those games have no meaning in the grand scheme of things.
In the old days you had to win your conference to qualify for the NCAA Championship tournament. No more.
A glaring example of the absurdity of choosing who makes the cut to participate in March Madness is Oklahoma. Even though the Sooners lost 11 of their final 15 games, they qualified. Oklahoma State (19-14), on the other hand, beat Oklahoma (18-13) twice (!) and also beat Kansas twice (!) but both Oklahoma and Kansas are in March Madness while Oklahoma State was rejected.
This type of inequity abounds all because 36 of the teams are chosen subjectively, often based on something called RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), which rates teams based on three factors; winning percentage (25 percent), opponents’ winning percentage (50 percent), and the opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (25 percent). Head to head matchups mean absolutely nothing. Bad as March Madness is, this method of choosing the teams that qualify is nothing less than madness itself.
Even the conference seasons are meaningless because conference winners are not guaranteed admission into March Madness. A team has to win its conference tournament to get an automatic qualification.
As a result of all this, since all the games played before the conference tournaments are virtually meaningless in terms of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, winning the NCAA Championship, what’s the point of playing them. More to the point, why would anybody pay good money to watch them, apart from some esoteric interest in watching exceptional athletes perform?
More Walton wisdom: Speaking about UCLA player Jalen Hands, who had just scored and been removed from the game against Arizona, TV Commentator Bill Walton said, “You want to be so hungry on that bench. You want to be over there on that bench elbowing the coach, ‘Hey, Lemme in there! Lemme in there!’ And if he ignores you long enough, just walk in there; substitute yourself. Make a play the first time you touch the ball. And then the coach will say, ‘Yeah, I made a great substitution there,’ in the postgame press conference.”
Really? Walton played for John Wooden. Wooden had a rule that a player’s hair couldn’t be longer than two inches and he didn’t allow facial hair. When Walton showed up for a new season with long hair and a beard, Wooden told him to cut them both. Walton said he had been Player of the Year on a National Championship team that went undefeated and that Wooden didn’t have the right to tell him that. Wooden responded, “You’re correct, Bill. I don’t have that right. I just have the right to determine who’s going to play and we’re going to miss you. In about 15 minutes we’re not going to have you unless you go upstairs and have that hair taken care of.” Walton ran out, jumped on his bike and rode directly down to Westwood and told the barber to “cut it all off.” He then raced back to Pauley Pavilion and “dumped my bike outside of Pauley and stood in line and just hoped he didn’t notice I had missed the first five minutes of practice.”
So, considering how Walton caved when challenged by a coach, why does he lecture such nonsense about disrespecting coaches to a national TV audience?
Tony Medley is the author of three books including “UCLA Basketball: The Real Story,” the first book written on UCLA basketball. Visit TonyMedley.com.