Each March, come the Big East Tournament, I spend plenty of time making fun of the stupid format of their conference tourney. With 16 teams, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out how to run a 4-day tournament with no byes. Yet the Big East (and a few other conferences) not only has byes for the top teams, but they have double byes.
Apparently, focus groups and bean counters have determined that the Big East can make more money if they format their tournament as they do. And since this is 2012, and this is college sports, if something makes more short-term money than that automatically qualifies it as a good idea.
Well, apparently the ACC has been paying attention. Because today the ACC “announced” that they will be going to double-byes once Syracuse and Pitt join the conference. The “announcement” came in the form of a sentenence buried at the end of an unrelated story.
So rather than having the top two teams gets byes and everyone else begin on Thursday – now seeds 11-14 will begin on Wednesday, seeds 5-10 will join the fray on Thursday, and 1-4 will chime in on Friday.
Five years ago the average ACC regular season game had a paid attendance of 11,272. Since then it’s fallen 16% to 9,478. In terms of the Tournament it’s been 19 years since the Atlanta Journal Constitution ranked ACC Tournament tickets as the toughest to get in sports, ahead of the Masters and the Kentucky Derby. Apparently, the leadership of the conference still thinks it’s 1983. Because they’re now adding a day to the tournament, so that they can make more on tickets. Never mind that the arena will be empty for the first two days – it’s already empty for the first day and much of the second. Who cares? The seats are paid for. Why should the ACC care about hacks like me making fun of their television broadcasts and pointing out that you can hear the individual conversations of fans? College basketball is about money, not entertainment – right?.
Duke and UNC are the drivers for how many eyeballs are on ACC basketball. Only twice in the past eight years have either of Duke or UNC failed to make the top four entering the conference tournament. So, under the new rules, in the majority of tournaments we won’t see either of those teams during the first two days of the tournament. Had they gone with the sensible mathematical option (seeds No. 1 and No. 2 get a bye) then the odds would have greatly increased that one or both of those teams would be playing before Friday. When they play, butts fill the seats. When they play, people turn on their televisions.
Instead, the ACC will be broadcasting two days of the tournament that will most likely be lightly watched and lightly attended. Why? Because in the short term it means a little bit more money.
It’s no wonder the ACC leadership has lately been characterized as old school Tobacco Road guys who have no grasp on modern reality. The ACC tourney is filled with commentary and commercials about how it’s the greatest conferenence around. That might go over better if there were actually people in the arena to watch.
Georgia Tech vs Boston College on a Wednesday? Oooh the anticipation!