I’m sure you’ve heard this before—more than likely here at The Root—but the NCAA is big business for everybody but Black players.
And when I say big business, I mean it’s been generating over a billion dollars annually since 2016, between television and marketing rights fees and ticket sales. Yet as lucrative of a business venture as it is to exploit student-athletes, where the NCAA really gets its Jeff Bezos on is with March Madness.
Acutely aware of this fact is legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who told ESPN that he isn’t sure that the NCAA can survive another cancellation of March Madness in the spring after the three-week tournament was already shuttered earlier this year due to the coronavirus.
“We’re the thing that the NCAA is most concerned about because men’s college basketball and the tournament [...] produces 98% or more of the money for the NCAA,” Coach K said Tuesday on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWIll & Zubin. “We need to have the tournament. We can’t have it where two years in a row you don’t have the NCAA tournament.”
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Considering that its cancellation reportedly cost the NCAA more than $375 million alone, Coach K might be on to something. But appearing on the same show, Kentucky coach John Calipari offered the NBA’s blueprint as a solution.
“Do we go and play the Champions Classic in a bubble without fans and we play each other?” Calipari asked. “We all play each other, round-robin. You walk away with three games. Do we put in a bubble or a pod Kentucky-Louisville or Michigan State with three ‘buy games’? Detroit, where my son plays, Murray State and East Tennessee State with us and we play a round-robin so that we can get the buy games where those teams really need that money? We can do that. Do we do it that way? Is the NCAA tournament in a bubble?”
For his part, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, Dan Gavitt, revealed that he has “contingency plans” in place on Monday and that a decision will be made on the upcoming basketball season by mid-September. The season is currently scheduled to begin on November 10.
According to ESPN, those contingency plans could include replicating the NBA’s bubble method or deploying replacement teams in order to circumvent any positive tests for COVID-19. And despite the risks, Coach K is cool without whatever allows players to hit the court and compete.
“Make sure you have the tournament. It doesn’t make any difference when it is,” he said. “Because we don’t even know when the NBA season is going to be next year. And we should look at them to see how they navigate the waters going forward. They’ve navigated them really well with the bubble.”
College basketball has far fewer players and moving parts than football does, so expect the NCAA to figure this shit out and still allow Krzyzewski and Calipari to count their multi-million dollar salaries at the bank.