Slive: Balance, not budgets to drive NCAA brackets

By Michael Marot

INDIANAPOLIS – The head of the NCAA Tournament selection committee would rather bust a budget than a bracket.

Chairman Mike Slive said his group will still try to keep teams close to their home fans, as it has in the past, but not if it would result in unfair competition.

“We’re concerned, as are all Americans, but I think our primary obligation is to provide the nation with a geographically and balanced national tournament,” Slive said during Tuesday’s conference call with reporters.

The recession has some schools scrambling to fill budget holes and seats.

Last month, The Associated Press reported that Stanford projects a $5 million shortfall over the next three years and is considering reducing its staff. At Indiana, athletic director Fred Glass has reduced ticket costs for balcony seating to $5, hoping to improve slipping attendance.

Other schools are concerned about rising travel costs for teams, alumni, bands and fans during the 65-team tournament.

In 2002, the NCAA adopted a system designed to keep schools as close to home as possible, by ending the practice of having an entire eight-team section of the bracket play in one place.

But last year George Mason and Winthrop went to Denver while Boise State wound up playing in Birmingham, Ala.

“The bracketing principles are designed to place teams as geographically close to their home city as possible, and we certainly understand the economic times,” Slive said. “But I don’t think we’re going to violate those principles.”

Selection committee members consider each team’s individual resume, regardless of conference affiliation. They use computer-generated rankings, nonconference strength of schedule ratings, head-to-head results, injuries, how teams fared in their final 12 games and teams they’ve seen play.

They also can use a computer program to determine how many miles each school would travel.