NCAA Championship Game Start Time Is a Disgrace

by Kent Sterling

9:21p!  9:21 at night.  That’s when the final between Duke and Butler will start!  All the college basketball fans 14-and-under have bedtimes earlier (or should) than this game will start.  With the protracted halftime (maybe they will salute Dick Enberg for another 15-seconds) and extended time-outs, this game will almost certainly creep toward a Midnight finish.

The CBS decision is undoubtedly to allow the west coast audience to enjoy the game with the rest of the country, but why would they have any interest?  Fourteen of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen and none of the Elite Eight came from the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones.  In baseball, the World Series starts shortly before 8:00p, and that has teams from the west coast in it as often as not.

The institutional stupidity and short-sightedness of the CBS coverage of the NCAA Tournament is so extreme that it makes it difficult to fathom what kind of oafs sit in the meetings making any of the calls in how this fiasco is brought into our homes.

Sports is supposed to be fun.  It’s a diversion.  CBS treats every broadcast as a holy event.  There are occasional pre-scripted attempts at appearing fun, but the overall tone is ridiculously somber.

Let’s look at the target demographic of the basketball audience.  Where do they live?  Of the 64 teams in the bracket (I’m refusing to acknowledge the absurd play-in game), 36 teams are from the Eastern Time Zone, 14 are from the Central, and the other 14 are from the Mountain and Pacific.  None of the teams from the Mountain or Pacific advanced to the Elite Eight.

Basketball is an east coast and midwest game, as is most of college football.  The SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC lie entirely in the East and Central.  The Pac Ten, lucky to put two teams in the tourney this year, is the only major conference with any schools that lie outside those time zones.

The BCS Championship kicked at 8:30p in the east.  That is n event that the west coast has teams that might play in the game.  The Super Bowl kickoff is at 6:25p.  The World Series – shortly before 8p.  The NBA Finals – 8:37p.  Stanley Cup Finals – 8:00p.

Where does 9:21p come from?  I’ve probed for the answer from people who would know, and what I get back is laughter, followed by “I don’t know.”

It’s time for Greg Shaheen and the NCAA to put this game on at a time when kids can watch it.  CBS can get with the program or cede the tournament rights to ESPN, a network that generally makes logical decisions that serve the audience.

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