Halftime Sports

CBS, NCAA, and the Mutilated Selection Show

March 19, 2016


If someone told me Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show could have been any worse, I don’t think I would believe them. One of the more exciting nights for college basketball fans across the country and the ceremonial kick-off event for March Madness was butchered by CBS’s greed and ignorance. Both the NCAA and CBS, the network that hosted the coverage, should be thoroughly embarrassed of the shit show of a spectacle that the formerly captivating Selection Sunday program was turned into.

The show, annually held the Sunday before the NCAA tournament commences, is meant to release the teams that the NCAA’s selection committee has chosen to participate in its championship tournament. This year, the program was given its lowest television rating in over twenty years as a result of the show’s drawn-out arrangement, oblivious commentators, and bracket leak, and hopefully this shameful excuse of a show will inspire changes to next year’s program.

From its creation in 1982 until 2001, the tournament selection show was only a half-hour long. It included a swift reveal of the bracket, short analysis by a few experts, and was then promptly concluded. Quick, easy, and not overly time-consuming for the casual basketball fan. After that, CBS expanded the show to an hour and added a little more meaningless commentary, but nothing ridiculous. This year, however, CBS and the NCAA greedily extended the program to two hours for the first time ever, undoubtedly with more advertisement revenue in mind, and it was brutal. A half-hour was the perfect length, an hour was justifiable, but two hours is just incomprehensibly bad. The actual bracket disclosure takes about fifteen minutes, but of course, CBS can’t release the entire sixty-eight team field in the first few minutes, or what’s the incentive to continue watching? The result was a few minutes of tournament team reveal followed by twenty-five minutes of meaningless “expert” predictions, interviews with coaches, and dumb advertisements, repeated four times for each of the four geographical bracket regions.

I use expert in quotation marks because CBS’s choice of analysts was curious at best. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, admittedly two of the better NBA sportscasters in the business, were entirely outmatched in trying to sound knowledgeable about the NCAA circuit that both of them have clearly not watched much of. Barkley’s amusing struggle with the network’s interactive touch screen looked like my grandfather trying to figure out how to use his new iPhone we got him for Christmas. It could have taken a producer thirty seconds to give Barkley a short crash-course on how to successfully operate the touch screen, but instead Barkley just embarrassed himself on national television, which, comically, is something he should be used to by now. It was also hilarious to listen to Doug Gottleib’s horrible attempt at acting and making it seem like it was his first time seeing the bracket, shrieking “WHAT?!” when Syracuse was announced as the ten-seed in the Midwest region. To be fair, he then ripped the committee for including the Orange, so I’ll throw some credit his way for that, because no one likes Syracuse.

I know Gottleib had seen the bracket before that point because pretty much all of America had seen it as well. About twenty-five minutes into the telecast, a copy of the bracket surfaced on Twitter, rendering the rest of the television program insignificant. At first, there were doubts on social media on whether or not the leaked bracket was legit, but it ended up being for real. It really sucks for the teams in the latter half of the bracket, since they most likely were informed of their tournament fate via the leak rather than the suspenseful selection show. It was certainly an embarrassing gaffe for the NCAA and CBS, but that’s what they get for trying to capitalize on viewership by extending the show to two hours. People didn’t want to wait, and someone with access to the completed bracket apparently agreed. The NCAA has promised to conduct an internal investigation into the leak, which I find to be laughable. Instead of working to fix their horrendous telecast for next year, they’re actually going to devote resources to finding the person who most of America probably hails as a savior for eliminating the need to labor through the worst selection show in recent memory.

I found myself bookmarking the Thesaurus entry for “embarrassing” while writing this article. It’s pretty much the only way CBS’s selection show can be accurately described; it was way too long, the “experts” intended to make predictions and eat up time with commentary were not even college basketball analysts, and they were not well-informed or well-prepared. The icing on the cake was the bracket leak, which I, as you can imagine, found to be a gratifying sign of karma for CBS. Greedily exploiting viewers for more advertisement revenue was not the way to go, and I’m glad it backfired in their faces. There’s a reason the program’s ratings are dropping, and maybe the NCAA and CBS should look in the mirror to solve the problem.

Nick Gavio
Nick is the Voice's former editorial board chair. Follow him on Twitter at @nickgavio, where he primarily retweets cute puppy videos.

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