Ben Howland is into CBS Conspiracy Theories
On Sunday following the CBS tourney selection show, UCLA coach Ben Howland went on a media blitz to promote DirecTV’s NCAA package. First he hit ESPN, then ESPNEWS, then ESPN2. This is no surprise for anyone who watches sports shows regularly; players and coaches frequently make the rounds pimping a product. But what Coach Howland said during his ESPNEWS interview was quite interesting.
First, you must understand that in the first round UCLA plays Weber St. where Howland played as a collegian, in the second round UCLA might play Gonzaga whom they beat in a sweet 16 thriller last year and who gave Howland his first coaching job, and in the sweet 16 UCLA is projected to play #3 seed Pitt, where Howland coached prior to UCLA (and he remains best friends with their current head coach Jamie Dixon). Anchor Robert Flores (and yes, I must watch a lot of ESPNEWS to know all the anchors by name) asked Howland about all the subplots in the West regional that involve him emotionally. Here was Howland’s response:
I think that CBS pays a lot of money for the rights to the NCAA tournament and they want their money’s worth and so they’re going to have matchups that create even more interest, so that’s the bottom line.
Howland had similar words for the LA Daily News
“I’m not surprised by it. I don’t chuckle, but I’m not surprised by it,” Howland said. “CBS is paying a lot of money to telecast the NCAA Tournament, about $700 to $800 million a year over the lifetime of the deal … so, of course, if good TV is available, it’s going to be more commanding to viewership.”
Howland’s response to the question answers what many fans have speculated for a long time. In a business sense, CBS wants to heighten the excitement surrounding their games by creating emotional storylines in order to increase ratings. As a fan, you want objectivity in the selection of the draw so that the path to the championship is as equal for all teams as possible.
This marks the second year in a row that UCLA and Pitt have been paired in the same region (coincidence?). Additionally, UCLA’s path to the Elite 8 seems more difficult than most other teams. Gonzaga who was in the top 25 for a good part of the year is a 10th seed in UCLA’s pod. Pitt is the 3 seed scheduled to play UCLA in the sweet 16. Seems a little tougher, and more coincidental than most.
I guess bottom line, even if teams were “coincidentally” placed in the same bracket, the truth is the same for all 65 teams, win six (or in the case of the play-in teams win seven) games, and you’re the national champ — there’s no confusion about that.