The Vermont Chamber of Commerce will hold a press conference in Room 10 at the State House on Monday, December 15 at 10:30 AM to release the Top Five Economic Development Initiatives for 2004.Paving the way to job creation and retention, the initiatives focus on: permit reform, competitive business climate, tax policy to ensure business investment, energy costs and taxes, and travel and tourism.Recognizing that the legislative climate is ripe for compromise, Vermont Chamber Board Chair Kevin O’Donnell of The Old Tavern at Grafton and Vermont Chamber Government Affairs Committee Chair Jim Pratt of Cabot Cooperative Creamery will confirm the need for the Chamber initiatives, based on experience and business member feedback.The new President of the Vermont Chamber, Duane Marsh, will be available, as well as Vermont Chamber Board Members, Government Affairs Committee members, and senior Chamber staff.
It works fine, but let’s fix it anyway.With March Madness now less than a month away, that’s the philosophy some of the powers-that-be in the NCAA have reportedly been discussing. I’m talking about the potential expansion of the NCAA tournament, an idea that gets kicked around here and there but has gained particular momentum in recent weeks.Obviously, this year’s tourney will remain a 65-team event. But after that, the NCAA has the option to opt out of its 11-year, $6 billion television contract with CBS. To no one’s surprise, ESPN/ABC and FOX have been reported as desperately wanting to end CBS’ 29-year stranglehold on the madness. As a result, expansion to as many as 96 teams has been suggested.Clearly, NCAA executives are seeing green. More teams mean more games, more games mean more TV time, more TV time means more commercials and more commercials mean… you guessed it, more moolah.Of course, many proponents of expansion cite the sheer increase of teams as the main benefit of the 96-team plan. However, while I’m all for making it fair for the little guys, how exactly would this expansion work? Like the October Classic, March Madness finds itself extending into the month after the one it is named for, so where is the room for 16 more games? This year’s tournament does not tip off until March 16, so some advocates for inflating the brackets have been pushing to begin the games in the first half of the month.Starting the NCAA tournament earlier moves it even closer to the regular season and conference championships, and the biggest argument against expansion thus far has revolved around the rush to prevent further dilution of the regular season. For the most part, only diehards watch the majority of the regular season games. Once the Super Bowl passes, attention toward college basketball then ratchets up. With more tournament games, the regular season would take an even deeper backseat to the postseason.Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany agrees with me (so clearly, I must be onto something here). In an interview with Sporting News, Delany reiterated the concern many have regarding the impact of a tournament extension on the regular season.“I do think the tournament is elegant in the way that it’s structured, but I’m more concerned about, ‘What does this mean for the sport of basketball from November through March?’ I don’t think it would make the tournament less popular,” Delany said. “It would affect it in some ways. There’d be different kinds of competition in the first and second round.”Also, with an additional 31 teams, the bracket itself would have to be adjusted. Most likely would be the top seeds getting first byes. While the race to lock up a top seed would be enticing and foster even more bracketology, the NCAA would almost surely see an NFL-style dilemma arise when teams start resting players once a seed is secured. Just ask the Colts how that can turn out.With all apologies to the Davidsons, George Masons and Coppin States, expansion of the bracket doesn’t seem like the best ticket to get the small schools consistently in the Big Dance. To begin with, a No. 16 seed has never upset a No. 1 seed. Only five have even come within five points of the mega-upset, with both Princeton and East Tennessee State falling by one point in the first round of the 1989 tournament.While crusaders of the expansion would stop me there and call me heartless for not wanting a chance to see even more Cinderellas, I would like to know how many glass slippers they think are out there. Who wants to see 31 more NIT-worthy teams last a game, maybe two at most? David vs. Goliath will always be a central theme of the madness, so does the underdog really need the extra help?Currently, only 19 percent of the 347 Division I basketball programs currently make the tourney — easily the lowest proportion for a postseason tournament, college or professional. This statistic has been the basis of many pro-expansion pundits’ reasoning; why should be college basketball be any different, they say, than the NBA, where 53 percent of teams make the playoffs? Simple. The NBA is the NBA, while college basketball remains college basketball.Why does there exist such a pressing need to compare the two? Compared to the superstar-centric nature of pro ball, NCAA basketball’s team play already provides a stark contrast. As opposed to the NBA game’s standard of pull-up jumpers, most college teams actually run an offense.As a result, the argument that an unfairly disproportionate amount of Division I teams are rewarded with the chance to participate in postseason play is like comparing apples to oranges — the NBA and NCAA may play the same game, but they are certainly not identical.Fortunately for college basketball, this is not exactly the worst problem to have. March Madness is arguably the most popular form of postseason play in sports, as the tournament attracts countless admittedly non-sports fans. The lure of the bracket is all it takes for the NCAA to keep its engine rolling, and the continual effort to improve their product is certainly admirable.Mike is a sophomore planning on majoring in journalism. What do you think? Should March Madness be expanded? Should it stay the way it is? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org