The good news for sports fans from the new NCAA men’s basketball tournament TV deal announced Thursday is that all the games will be nationally televised for the first time. No longer will scheduling be subject to the whims of network programmers and their crazy shifting from game to game.
The tournament field also isn’t being watered down by expanding to 96 teams as had been proposed last month. Instead, it will expand modestly from 65 to 68 teams and the NCAA-owned NIT will live for another day. The 96-team proposal apparently was a trial balloon that didn’t take off. The bad news for fans without cable TV is that many of regional finals will air on TBS, and beginning in 2016, TBS and CBS will alternate coverage of the Final Four. Interim NCAA president Jim Isch said providing national coverage of all games was an important part of the new TV package. "It was a goal from the very, very beginning and I believe it’s what our memberships want,” Isch said. "They think it’s important for their teams to be seen throughout the country.” The current $6 billion, 11-year television deal with CBS had a mutual opt-out until July 31, which the NCAA took. CBS needed the partnership with Turner Sports to hold off a strong challenge from ESPN.