Understatement alert: In the NCAA, change never comes easy. There are various committees and vying constituencies and a democratic process and, sure, a long-standing resistance to change for no other reason than that -- it's change. NCAA president Mark Emmert has been more proactive than many of his predecessors during his tenure at the top, and the NCAA is going through a tumultuous time, but in general, when you're talking NCAA, you're talking about things that have been and always will be, and that's just the way it is.
Which is why it's kind of refreshing to see the organization make a small but nonetheless welcome tweak. Beginning at the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta, the NCAA will hold the championships not only for our beloved Division I, but for all three men's basketball divisions. From the Associated Press:
Both the Division II and Division III champions will be crowned on April 7, with the tentative site being Philips Arena. Next season's men's Division I national semifinals are April 6 at the Georgia Dome, as is the national championship game on April 8.
The NCAA says the moves are being made in part to add to the 75th anniversary celebration of college basketball's annual championship tournament.
"We're looking to create a bit of history and really allow more and more people to see all three championships at the same time," NCAA executive vice president for championships Mark Lewis said.
I don't really care about the whole 75th-anniversary thing. It's nice, I suppose, but it's not like the NCAA tournament as we currently know it has been around for three-quarters of a century. It's changed too often and too significantly to feel like a continuous thing.
I am, however, excited for Division II and Division III men's basketball at the Final Four. I will totally go watch those games!* I would imagine many of the fans in town for the Final Four will do the same. It's college basketball, after all, and even if the level isn't as high, it will be hard-fought and at least three or four steps above your typical high school basketball game, and high school basketball games can be plenty entertaining in their own way.
Plus, it's just good public relations, right? The NCAA gets to showcase the work it does away from the billion-dollar TV contracts, and emphasize the importance of the student-athlete in a much more tangible way. And the schools involved get some of the attention and spotlight, if only for a day, otherwise spent parsing players' quotes and talking about national championship strategy.
I might be too excited for this. I am probably too excited for this. But it is a pretty great idea.
The NCAA has a lot of things on the to-do list these days, but hey -- credit where it's due.
*Provided my mean old editors don't make me, like, work. Pshh. Work.