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Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer 263d

NCAA official rebuts claim that seedings changed to sell tickets

Men's College Basketball, Cincinnati Bearcats

The senior vice president in charge of men's basketball and the NCAA tournament says there's no truth to Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin's allegation that the selection committee makes decisions in the interest of ticket sales.

Dan Gavitt rebutted Cronin's claim that teams are moved up and down seed lines to create matchups and improve ticket sales.

"Mick's assertion that this was a fact is not true," Gavitt said. "When it happened in the past, it was for separating conference opponents, not ticket sales." 

In 2014, the NCAA changed bracketing principles, allowing conference opponents to meet as early as the second round if they played once in the regular season or as early as the Sweet 16 if they played twice. Prior to the change, conference opponents couldn't meet until the regional final.

From 2007 to 2013, an average of 10 teams per tournament were moved either up or down a seed line to avoid conference conflicts, Gavitt said. Since the change in 2014, he said there hasn't been a single team that has moved up or down a seed line once the 1-68 seed list was set.

The discussion of potential matchups doesn't happen until the bracket is completed and the committee has a chance to review it, Gavitt said, adding that the bracketing process is pretty regimented based on the principles and procedures.

Gavitt also noted that the majority of ticket sales are made before the announcement of the field. The remaining tickets largely go to the host schools.

As of Feb. 27, there were 1,000 to 3,800 tickets available at each of the eight first- and second-round sites.

But later Friday, Cronin told ESPN that his point wasn't about ticket sales but rather that college basketball and the NCAA tournament is a business.

"Period," Cronin said. "Let's not kid ourselves. That's it. Period. And everyone knows it."

Cronin said Friday that seeding was overrated. He said the committee knows the difference is so minuscule between some teams that they move them to create matchups, sell tickets and have a better tournament.

"That's all," Cronin said. "I wasn't complaining. But to think it doesn't happen is naive."

If Cronin wants to question the pod system, that's fine, Gavitt said, "but the pod system benefits every team in the field" and used last season's Yale team as an example.

"Yale was a 12-seed and ended up in Providence because they were the highest 12-seed line in a West region," Gavitt said. "Because they were the highest 12 seed of the four, Providence was closest and that's where they went. Before the pod system, Yale would have been in Spokane or Denver."

On Wednesday, Cronin told reporters: "I'm a firm believer in that the NCAA tournament committee and everything is so financially driven that no matter what is said on that [Selection] Sunday, they're trying to sell tickets.

"You may get moved on a seed line. And it may not be us, but teams could get moved around from 4 to a 5 or an 8-9 to a 7-10 to get that pod to sell more tickets. Now nobody will admit that, because it's all about the student-athletes -- supposedly. But it's a business. If it wasn't a business, we'd be able to have a bus trip in the conference we played in."

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