Gary Williams pushes for tournament expansion
On Thursday, Maryland Coach Gary Williams was on "The Mike Wise Show" on WJFK. The topic that dominated the conversation between Wise (MW), co-host Bill Rohland (BR) and Williams (GW) was proposed expansion of the NCAA tournament, which Williams favors. Now this is pretty long, but it was an entertaining conversation. Keep in mind that Rohland also is the radio voice of George Mason basketball.
MW: Bill, I was gonna say, my co-host, he says the tournament’s fine. You’re in favor of expanding it. Could you give us the best argument for that?
GW: I’ll give you the best argument: They’ve expanded the tournament. I remember 16 teams when UCLA was doing their damage and winning championships. They went to 32, went to 48 with a play-in game for some teams. Went to 64 and now it’s 65. Each time it was expanded it was because there was more good teams. There’s more good teams now. That’s why it should be expanded.
MW: Go ahead, Bill. What’s your take on that?
BR: Coach, there’s no thought that then it becomes a watered-down process, [GW tries to interrupt] kind of like in college football, where you have half the schools that make it?
GW: When it went from 16 to 32, did it get watered down? When it went 32 to 64, did it get watered down? Why wasn’t it watered down when it went from 32 to 48 to 64?
BR: Why not go to 128? Why not go to 256?
GW: You know that’s ridiculous. You don’t want to put everybody in. Like Indiana high school basketball used to have the best high school state tournament in the country because everybody played.
MW: Now they’re going to divisions.
GW: You know, now there’s an argument for that. So why not play — I don’t know the right number — but you already play Tuesday night before the main part of the tournament, so I you played eight games that night, would that be bad for college basketball? There’s teams every year in our league, the Big East, Big Ten, they’re certainly good as half the teams in the NCAA tournament. So why shouldn’t those kids get the opportunity to tell their kids and their grandkids that they got the oppotunity to play in the NCAA tournament? You know, believe it or not, we’re in this business for the kids, okay? Really, I make a lot of money now, some coaches make a lot of money that you never thought you’d make when guys my age went into coaching, but you do, okay? So now, what’s the best for the kid, not to play in the NCAA tournament or to play in th NCAA tournament? Just tell me that argument.
MW: Ahhh, very good point, very good point, Gary.
BR: Well, then you know what? The every team should be in. If it’s that important .....
GW: No, you’re wrong. You should have, you know, it’s subjective, who gets in now, obviously. And so, you know, if there’s room for, say, 16 more teams, great. If it’s eight more teams, great. Whatever the deal is.
BR: What do you think the number, without watering it down, Coach?
GW: You’re talking like you’re working for the TV networks. [Laughter]
BR: God no, please don’t accuse me of that.
GW: You want 64. CBS signed I think it was a $7.2 billion contract, mainly for the NCAA tournament, and that’s based on, they love that 64 thing. But I’m thinking, as colleges need more revenue, think about the revenue you could produce from that Tuesday night, if you made it a national basketball night, and you had, on college campuses, the higher-seeded team playing at home, just think of the money you could make. And see, all that money doesn’t go to basketball, that goes to run the other sports at those universities.
BR: Well then, I’ll say this, and it’s not a TV network thing, because ESPN wants the contract and they want to expand to 96. Where do you think, then, without it getting watered down by saying 128 or whatever the number is, where does Coach Williams think the number should be? What’s a good number? Maybe I’ll agree with you, but I don’t like the 96, I don’t like the 128.
MW (incredulous): Maybe I’ll agree with you? He’s the only person who’s won a national championship in this area for decades.
BR: We’re not arguing his coaching ability, Mike.
MW: Sorry, go ahead. Go ahead, Gary, I’m sorry.
GW: No, I just think that you must have missed my first argument. In other words, why aren’t 16 teams in the NCAA tournament?
BR: Well because now, back then there was all auto-bids, there are more than 16 conferences in the NCAA now in Division I.
GW: So there’s a need for more teams to go to 32. There’s a need for more teams to go to 48. There’s a need to go to 64, then to 65. So, right now, there’s more good teams. George Mason’s having a great year. If they get knocked off in their conference playoffs, there’s no way they should be kept out of the NCAA tournament.
BR: Now I disagree with that. This is not a tournament team. I watch them game in and game out. They’re not a tournament team right now.
MW: I don’t know how you’re not coming to Gary’s side of the argument, Bill. You routinely come in here and say you want six CAA teams in the tournament.
BR: That’s not true.
GW: Well, the only way you get them in the tournament, let’s be realistic, let’s be mature people here. The only way you can get that many teams, and they might deserve it, is to expand the tournament. ..... Give it a shot. If it’s bad, you can always go back. You know, if it doesn’t work, go back.
BR: Well, you and I both know, and we can go on and on about this, but you and I both know, Coach, once it expands, it’s not going back.
GW: Okay, well how many teams from Mason’s conference do you want in the tournament? Tell me how many you want in there.
BR: It’s not about the conference. It’s about the teams that are playing up to that level, though it varies from year to year.
GW (voice rising slightly): You think there’s only 64 teams playing up to the level of the 64-team tournament? You think there’s only 64 out there?
BR: I don’t think you can look at it and say, “Gosh, the five or 10 teams that have an argument that they didn’t get in, legitimately have the ability to win a couple games in the tournament.”
MW: You know why I disagree with that, Bill? Because the year you called the greatest game of your life, and went to the Final Four, that’s the year that Hofstra, which beat that team in the CAA final, should have been in the tournament.
[Various inconsequential arguing between BR and MW ensues about George Mason getting into the tournament as an at-large that season. GW interrupts.]
GW: Wait a minute, I’m missing something here. So why wouldn’t you want more teams in if you’re saying Mason shouldn’t have been in it that year? Isn’t it a great thing that Mason was in?
BR: No, I didn’t say they shouldn’t have been in that year. I said they shouldn’t be in this year. Right now, their resume isn’t good enough.
GW: Ah, they’re pretty good.
BR: Well .....
MW: You know why I like it? And I’m not saying go crazy with it. I’d say maybe 12 more teams. My deal is, there are coaches like Gary and there are coaches like Coach Larranaga .....
GW: Okay, ask Bobby Cremins about not going to the NCAA tournament when he was at Georgia Tech. Did that help him there?
MW: Yeah, exactly. And I also think that there’s some, I don’t want to say a reward, but too often, if you look at the Maryland team now, and to me, Gary, this team is not just about heart and talent and perseverance, it’s about guys playing together for a while and knowing each others’ games ..... teams like that should be rewarded if they’re on the bubble because they can knock off those kids, and [to BR] you saw it when your team knocked off Connecticut. So I don’t know, we could go on all day about this, Gary. I think it’s a great point. Like I said, Bill just wants six CAA teams in. That’s what it comes down to.
BR: That’s not true.
GW: Bill, you better call the NCAA then and tell them to stop having these meetings about expanding the NCAA tournament.
BR: Why is there the NIT? They might as well throw the NIT away.
GW: Let’s not go there. We all know about the NIT. I mean, come on.
BR: Oh I know you don’t like it, Gary.
GW: In the real world, there’s the NCAA tournament and nothing at the end of the year. We all know that. I’ve been in the NIT, I know how that feels to be in the NIT.
BR: Been there, done that as well, with Mason.
MW: True story, Gar, or not? You actually looked at a ref in an NIT game and go, “Hey, I know we gotta be here, but what are you doing here?”
GW: [ignores question] I tell you what, it’s gonna be, I think this year, with the parity you see in college basketball, this’ll be the biggest outcry of all about who doesn’t get in. And I think when that happens, you know the NCAA’s gotta listen, and another reason they’ve gotta listen is because they’ve expanded football to 36 bowl games, I guess it is now, which is 72 teams out of about 110 in that so-called bowl division, so just the numbers don’t make any sense for 340 Division I basketball teams to only have 64 in the tournament.
MW: I’m gonna let Gary go now. Thanks, Gary, for joining us.
GW: I enjoyed this. This took my mind off Clemson for about 15 minutes.
January 29, 2010; 2:08 PM ET
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