March Has Become Monopoly Madness – New York Times

April 12, 2009

Every March, college basketball fans have been primed to experience one of the world’s most powerful monopolies — the N.C.A.A. tournament. This event, which is enjoying a $6 billion, 11-year agreement with CBS, has become the poster child for commercialism in college sports and all of its adverse consequences on student athletes. What most fans don’t realize, however, is that the N.C.A.A. tournament did not acquire, and does not maintain, its monopoly fairly. It does so through a set of anticompetitive rules that force all invited schools, under pain of severe penalty, to participate only in the N.C.A.A. tournament and to boycott any competing events. This was not always the case.

Once upon a time, the National Invitation Tournament, which is older than the N.C.A.A. tournament and culminates every year in Madison Square Garden, provided strong competition to the N.C.A.A. tournament and attracted many of the top teams in the country. In 1950, for example, City College of New York played in and won both tournaments.

In 1962, Loyola, Mississippi State, Dayton, the University of Houston and St. John’s all chose to participate in the N.I.T. rather than accept invitations to the N.C.A.A. tournament. In 1970, Marquette, one of the best teams in the nation that year, chose to go to the N.I.T. over the N.C.A.A. tournament, which provoked an outcry by the powers that ran the N.C.A.A. tournament.

 

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