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For a while some of the nation's traditional preseason college basketball tournaments appeared headed for extinction.
But the Maui Classic, the Great Alaska Shootout, the Preseason NIT and the San Juan Shootout aren't gone yet.
Those tournaments and others like them were the objects of legislation recently considered by the NCAA Board of Directors, which was widely expected to pass legislation that would have effectively eliminated those events from the schedule.
But in a surprise move, the board recently postponed its decision and requested studies and reports on a number of issues for final consideration no later than January 2004. This means the tournaments will go off as usual at least until then.
Under current rules, if a team participates in an exempt tournament such as the Maui Classic, it plays three games, yet they count as only one against a mandated limit of 28. If the legislation had passed, the limit would have been raised to 29, but the three Maui games would have counted as three.
That would have cost many of the major college basketball powers the chance to play two or three extra home games and the money that goes with them.
Among those supporting the legislation was Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who has argued that the current system allows some colleges to play significantly more games than others.
"Why should some schools play 37 games and others play 28? What's right about that?" Delany said.
That argument remains a key issue.
"The board still has an interest in setting a finite limit on the number of contests for basketball," said Ohio State President Brit Kirwan, the board chair at the time of the decision. "But we also have concerns about the legislation as it came to us."
Those concerns prompted the board to request a number of studies, including:
The amount of class time lost because of the tournaments and what other impact the extra games may have on graduation rates;
An analysis of what teams from what conferences participate in the tournaments to assure competitive balance; and
What kind of influence participation in the tournaments may have on the RPI calculations that help determine a school's chances of getting invited to the 64-team NCAA tournament.
That legislation, now in limbo, long has been contentious, effectively pitting coaches against their conference commissioners. Coaches favor maintaining the current system, which--to use Maui as an example--gives them three games for one as well as a recruiting tool.
Commissioners say they are looking only to level the playing field by giving all teams the same opportunity, although critics of the commissioners' stance say they are simply looking for a way to get more home games and the revenue that comes with them.
"By adding an extra game to the season, all that does is give the power schools another chance to buy a home game," said Dana Altman, the coach at midmajor Creighton.
The argument is sure to continue as those studies are made. And to the coaches' delight, so will tournaments such as Maui and the Preseason NIT.