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All Signs Point to March Madness Expanding to 96 Teams

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Perhaps as soon as next year. The NCAA has an "opt out" clause in its $6 Billion contract with CBS this summer and they have already asked for a Request For Proposal from any and all networks interested.

The current contract with CBS is backloaded -- the network owes the NCAA $2.3 Billion over the next three years. CBS kept the contract last time around by bidding up the rights to all platforms --including video streaming.

The NCAA makes almost 90% of its revenue off of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and this time around they want a 14-year deal from their broadcast partners as well as another opt-out clause.

The NCAA could keep its current deal; make a new deal with its longtime broadcast partner, CBS; make a new deal with a new partner; or create a split rights agreement. In the split-rights deal, two broadcasters would submit a joint proposal to share the media rights.


CBS is talking with Turner Sports about teaming up to make a bid for the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The winner no doubt will have a cable entity in its package -- someone who can bring dual revenue streams to the deal of advertiser dollars as well as subscription fees -- Hello ESPN.

Under a splits right scenario, the channel broadcasting the Final Four would pay 60 percent of the annual rights fee and the other network would pay 40 percent. The broadcast partners would alternate coverage of the Final Four each year.

The NCAA insists that the expansion to 96 teams would not lengthen the tournament. The proposed schedule calls for the Top 32 teams to get a first-round bye. There would be two more days of 16 games (Tuesday & Wednesday of the first week) with the survivors moving into the sub-regionals. This would mean a slate of games on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, and then two of the brackets would play Wednesday-Friday-Sunday. Here is a look at what a 96-team bracket would look like.

The expansion will render the regular season even more meaningless, and if 13 members from the Big East or 9 members from the Big 12 are going to get in, why would anyone pay full price to go to the Post-Season Conference Tournaments?