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Feinstein vs. the NCAA

John Feinstein has been a well-known opponent of NCAA tournament expansion. I'm on record thinking it's kind of an ok idea.

But Feinstein is a lot more famous than me, and a lot more effective at his job. So when he attended the state-of-the-NCAA press conference on Thursday, he had at Senior VP of basketball and business strategies Greg Shaheen, chiefly over the subject of missed class time.

Now, of all the reasons to complain about expansion, I'd argue that missed class time is about the flimsiest. We -- the sporting public, and the sportswriters who make our living by writing about sports -- don't offer a whisper of complaint about the classes hoopers miss during the regular season or the current tourney. The kids who make it all the way to the Final Four in the existing setup aren't exactly lighting the library on fire during the month of March. If you ever worked at a college newspaper, you know that it isn't just athletes who vanish from classrooms for long periods of time due to extracurricular opportunities. And I could go on and on with being tendentious about this, but I'll just quote the Feinstein vs. Shaheen dialog, because it's awesome, and because Feinstein won the verbal battle pretty handily. (Here's his triumphant post-victory column.)

The issue is over the second week of the tournament, which basically would be filled with basketball activity for any team advancing past the round of 64. The NCAA was attempting, clumsily, to argue that many of those teams would go to more school in the first week than they do now. Feinstein was attempting to point out that the entire second week would be void of class-time.

(Note: I was not actually at this event, but various media reports have identified Feinstein as the questioner.)

Q: Basically they'll be out of school an entire week the second week?
Shaheen: Actually, if you were to look at the window for each individual team, you have to take each team and contemplate the fact right now you have half the field leaving campus on Tuesday, returning on Sunday or Monday.

Q: If they lose. I'm talking about the teams that win in advance. You're going to advance 16 teams.
Shaheen: No, actually in the current model you have teams that depart on Tuesday, and even if they win, return on Sunday.

Q: We're misunderstanding each other. Under the new model that you laid out, you play 64 teams Thursday/Friday. 32 advance to games Saturday/Sunday. Then you are down after those games to 32 teams.
Shaheen: Right.

Q: You're saying you play games in the round of 32 Tuesday/Wednesday. They would then advance to regionals when?
Shaheen: They would continue into the regional as it's normally scheduled now.

Q: So they would go Tuesday to Thursday, Wednesday to Friday?
Shaheen: Right.

Q: So they miss an entire week of school. That's what I'm trying to get.
Shaheen: If you listened to my original answer, they leave now on Tuesday.

Q: I'm talking about the second week, not the first week. They play a game Saturday/Sunday, play a game Tuesday or Wednesday, then go directly to the regional. Tell me when in that second week they're going to be in class.
Shaheen: The entire first week, the majority of the teams would be in class.

Q: You're just not going to answer the question about the second week. You're going to keep referring back to the first week, right? They're going to miss the entire second week under this model.
Shaheen: So they're going to go to school the first week, and then they're --

Q: They're going to be under the same schedule you said basically the first week, and then they'll miss the entire second week.
Shaheen: I'm clearly missing the nuance of your point.

Q: You and I miss nuances a lot. Thank you.
BOB WILLIAMS: Next question, please.

Just wait until these two have at it on the subject of additional bids for the Big 10.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 1, 2010; 8:44 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball , Media  
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Comments

Junior knows his stuff.

Posted by: Hattrik | April 1, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

This is a smart chess move by Junior. He knows that this is a way to hit the NCAA and conference presidents where they are most hypocritical. They say that class time is a reason to not talk about a football playoff (but we know it's about money). Yet they won't dismiss tournament expansion because of class time (because it's all about money).

Of course Feinstein doesn't care about class time either. He just wants to stop these weasels from ruining the tournament.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 1, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

You're right about class time being a relatively flimsy argument. It should be pointed out, however, that the Feinstein-Shaheen exchange was preceded by the NCAA flacks congratulating themselves on taking steps to "enhance the academic progress" of basketball players.

Feinstein was just pointing out how incredibly hypocritical they are. Of course, that's not news.

Posted by: sandlapperspike | April 1, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Of course Feinstein doesn't care about class time either. He just wants to stop these weasels from ruining the tournament.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 1, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Exactly. Feinstein doesn't care one iota about class time either. These days, there isn't a writer at the Post that is more completely full of sh*t than Junior Feinstein.

I used to like the guy. I own a few of his books and used to think his college bball columns were top notch. And his commentary at the BB&T classic every year was great. But these days, he's a big joke. He's very unprofessional, attacks his colleagues routinely, and his attacks against Gilbert Arenas were just beyond the pale.

If he had simply said, look, I'm biased on this issue because I despise the Second Amendment (which he has admitted numerous times in the past), then maybe you could look past his using Arenas to further his anti-gun agenda.

But he didn't do that. He pretended like he was some kind of impartial observer who hadn't written extensively over the years attacking gun rights.

And before anyone goes and accuses me of being an NRA gun toting fanatic, I don't own a gun and could care less about the issue of gun rights. I just call it like I see it.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 2, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

First, a point about this proposed schedule: It's a terrible idea. My favorite two days of the NCAA tournament are the round of 32, and the quadrupleheader on Sat./tripleheader on Sunday. Usually, the most memorable upsets (i.e., Kansas-Northern Iowa) happen in that round, and there's no workday getting in the way like on Thursday and Friday. But under this schedule, that round happens Tuesday and Wednesday, which either means half the games for the most exciting round of the tournament are going to be played during the workday, or they'll all be pushed into a doubleheader where they'll be played simultaneously. Instead, the prior Saturday and Sunday will be filled with the round of 64--sometimes exciting, like this year, but still often filled with lots of blowouts as well--and the hotly anticipated first two days of the tournament will be games where the biggest upset can be a 24 over a 9. Doesn't sound all that enticing to me. Do these guys setting the schedule even watch the tournament?

As for Feinstein, kudos for showing the NCAA as hypocrites. And as someone pointed out above, the fact that the NCAA uses the excuse of missed class time when saying they can't hold a football playoff-even though the football playoff would be in the first two weeks of January, when most schools aren't even back in session from holiday break yet--makes the NCAA look even sillier.

Posted by: TheFingerman | April 2, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't matter what 'agenda' a guy has. When he's right, he's right. And Junior is right in this instance. The NCAA is run by hypocrites.

Posted by: shanks1 | April 2, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Why is the NCAA trying to cram 4096 games into one week, wouldn't it make more sense to cut the field from 96 to 32 during the first weekend, 32 to 8 the second weekend, and the last weekend will be called the "Road to the Final 8" instead of the Final 4.

Nobody misses a whole week of class under this arrangement, and only 8 teams are inconvenienced in having to travel 3 consecutive weekends. It's also very likely the Top-8 will be "bye" teams so the missed class time will be very minimal.

Posted by: twigmuffin | April 2, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Really surprised Dan Steinberg took Feinstein's "attack" on the missed class time literally. The subtext really isn't buried all too deep.

And at the risk of being tendentious, really surprised Dan Steinberg is pro-expansion. I just read his pro-expansion post and the logic was so bad it made me blush.

I agree with Feinstein (and Wilbon, and Andy Katz, and Jay Bilas, and just about every serious commentator who cares about college basketball) that expansion is totally unjustified by anything other than money. And more to the point, it would suck. This all suggests the NCAA is indeed extremely hypocritical, as Feinstein ably demonstrated.

Posted by: AndJuan | April 2, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't know about class attendance, but every team they add to the tournament devalues the presence of every other team. I agree that it's just about money. Why else would it be so important that they want so many teams to make it? There are what, 400-some DI basketball programs? And we want to include nearly 25% in the post-season play? You only need to look at the ACC to see how messing around with things for the sake of money can screw it up.

Posted by: bethesdaguy | April 2, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

The problem with expansion is it will kill interest in conference tournaments. I think the field of 64 creates the right balance of importance of the conference automatic bids.

Posted by: verbal8 | April 2, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The only reason that I care about missing class time is that missing class time is precisely the reason the NCAA uses to stop a football playoff. They argue that too many games will prevent players from going to class. Say what you will about Feinstein, it's nice to see someone throwing the NCAA's argument back in their face.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | April 2, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

It's stating the obvious this is all about MONEY, but it's also about taking the GAMES OFF FREE TV and shoving them on cable, where LESS PEOPLE WILL SEE THEM. Dan and the Sportswriters of America, who have their cable bills paid by their employers, don't care about those people, but it's worth noting. And what about the games being ONLINE FOR FREE, like they are now? No one is asking these questions, because, as Junior and others have said, they don't care about the fans. This is a RIDICULOUS IDEA FUELED BY GREED and if more sportswriters grew a pair like Feinstein, maybe the NCAA would reconsider.

Posted by: StikeDC1 | April 2, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

it's also about taking the GAMES OFF FREE TV and shoving them on cable, where LESS PEOPLE WILL SEE THEM. Dan and the Sportswriters of America, who have their cable bills paid by their employers, don't care about those people, but it's worth noting.

Posted by: StikeDC1 | April 2, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

You are really, really reaching here bro. 90% of American households have tvs, and of that 90% the overwhelming vast majority have cable or satellite, and cable networks collectively have greater viewership than broadcast networks. And if anyone really wants to see games but can't afford cable, there are bars and restaurants in every neck of the woods that will have these games on for free. So please, stop with the feigned outrage over a non-existent issue of people not being able to see these games.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 2, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Really surprised Dan Steinberg took Feinstein's "attack" on the missed class time literally. The subtext really isn't buried all too deep.

And at the risk of being tendentious, really surprised Dan Steinberg is pro-expansion. I just read his pro-expansion post and the logic was so bad it made me blush.

I agree with Feinstein (and Wilbon, and Andy Katz, and Jay Bilas, and just about every serious commentator who cares about college basketball) that expansion is totally unjustified by anything other than money. And more to the point, it would suck. This all suggests the NCAA is indeed extremely hypocritical, as Feinstein ably demonstrated.

Posted by: AndJuan | April 2, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

All I know is this: When the tourney does expand and after a year or two everyone has gotten used to it and realizes their fears were 150% unwarranted, I will make sure to remind you all how absurd your fears were about the expansion.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 2, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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