Surprise changes to NIT format anger league commissioners. ‘That’s just wrong’

Coaches and conference commissioners are livid about the recent changes made to the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), a secondary postseason tournament in college basketball. The news of the reorganization came as a shock, with no warning or heads-up given to those involved in the sport. The lack of transparency and communication from the NIT organization is out of character and has left many commissioners unable to explain the decision to angry coaches and athletic directors.

The main concern voiced by commissioners is the favoritism shown to the Power 6 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, and Pac-12), who will now receive automatic bids to the NIT based on their NET rankings. This change eliminates automatic bids for regular-season champions from other conferences who fail to win their conference tournament. Commissioners argue that this unfair treatment goes against the principles of equal access for all conferences.

The decision to make these changes lies solely with the NIT, as it operates separately from the NCAA. The NIT was purchased by the NCAA in 2005 but is now run as an LLC and does not require committee approval or membership votes for changes to its structure. This unilateral decision-making process has drawn criticism from commissioners who believe that feedback should have been sought from those affected before making such significant changes.

The reason behind the changes seems to be a move to save the NIT from losing top teams to a potential new postseason tournament organized by Fox. The Fox deal would involve the top two teams from each Power 6 conference that do not make the NCAA Tournament. This proposed tournament would leave the NIT with a limited selection pool, potentially resulting in a less attractive product. The NIT hopes to retain Power 6 schools by offering them a similar option, even if it may only be a temporary solution.

The discontent among commissioners goes beyond just the changes to the NIT. They fear that this decision reflects a larger shift in the NCAA towards favoring the Power 6 conferences and neglecting the interests of smaller conferences. Commissioners believe that equal access to championships is one of the core values of the NCAA, and they are concerned about the potential ramifications of this preferential treatment.

Although changes to the NCAA Tournament and other championships would require a more extensive process involving oversight committees and membership votes, there is still apprehension that this decision sets a precedent for future changes. The NCAA Tournament, in particular, is highly regarded as one of the best and most profitable events in college sports, and there is little appetite for major revisions to its format.

Overall, the discontent expressed by coaches and commissioners stems from a feeling of being ignored and excluded from the decision-making process. It raises concerns about the growing influence of money in college sports and how it dictates decisions, sometimes at the expense of fairness and equal opportunity.


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