But on the 30th anniversary of the nail-biter match up between Larry Bird's Indiana State squad and Magic Johnson of Michigan State that sparked the March Madness tradition, the big question for many basketball fans is whether the Cinderella era is gone for good – the victim of recruiting dynasties, revenue-sharing that favors power conferences, and a tourney selection committee that has to face the ratings pressures of a $6 billion TV contract.First off, every team in the NCAA tourney has to play six consecutive games. Home court advantage is minimal to coincidental, and there are no bye weeks. It's the flattest tourney structure imaginable. In one game, anyone can beat anyone.
But let's put that aside as Blutarsky did and address that this issue of "fairness" and accessibility argument exists for the football and the BCS as well. The bothersome issue to me is the media rarely looks back and acknowledges the simple fact that:
The following schools were considered mid-majors or non-BCS members not that long ago:
|Arizona||Pac 10 in '78||Won NC in Hoops 20 Years Later. Five years|
after leaving the WAC, they hired Lute Olson.
Five years after hiring Lute, they were in the
|Arizona State||Pac 10 in '78||Played for NC in football 18 years later.|
|Florida State||ACC in '91||Won NC in Football 3 seasons later. Was a|
laughing stock until mid to late '70s.
Completely re-tooled in under 10 years.
|Miami||Big East in '91||Won NC in football same year. Considered|
giving up football in the late '70s. Built from
nothing to dominance in under 10 years.
|Virginia Tech||Big East in '91||Played for NC in football nine seasons later.|
Also-ran until hiring Beamer in late '80s.
|West Virginia||Big East in '91||Played for NC in '88 before joining league.|
Closer to home...remember that UGA had a smaller stadium, fewer SEC titles and less regional or national recognition in football than Georgia Tech when Vince Dooley took over the program in 1964. In the 1950s, I've heard that you couldn't give away tickets to UGA games. As late as 1965, UGA was still giving up away games to schools like Michigan without return trips.
It was only 11 years after the trip to Ann Arbor that UGA played for the national title against Pitt, and we won the title 15 years after the win vs. Michigan.
The point -- There is a path to consistent national relevance. All you need is fan support and money. Fan support comes from hiring great coaches, winning games that interest your fans and investing in your program. Money comes from fan support and TV revenue.
Since 1980, the only programs to win a share of the National Title while averaging less than 50,000 fans per game were Georgia Tech ('90), Colorado ('90) and Miami (multiple). I can't find the BYU attendance for '84, but I'd wager they were over 50,000 on average given the size of the facility that year.
Since 1990, the only schools to make the title game with a seating capacity of less than 70,000 were Georgia Tech (45k), Colorado (55k), Virginia Tech (54k). In basketball, the schools with arenas with capacities of less than 10k rarely win the NCAA title. The biggest exception being Duke.
You can't legislate your way to national relevance in football. You have to earn it on the field. Anybody, anywhere and anytime is how Bobby Bowden did it at FSU. He didn't go to his senator and say, "Life isn't fair. I need you to go back to Washington and make it easier for me to win football games."
We clawed our way to the top of the pile. Why shouldn't Boise, Utah, TCU and Fresno State do the same thing? Fighting your way to the top is much more fun than having it given to you.