Big West Conference Shouldn't Bear Burden

Cal State Long Beach deserves to be going to the NCAA basketball tournament, but isn't.

Who's to blame?

Television might be the biggest culprit.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, chairman of the nine-member NCAA selection committee, said on CBS Sunday that a message was being sent to the Big West Conference.

In essence, Delany told the Big West, if you want fairness, then you play your conference championship game at an earlier time.

"The committee felt, 'Who should bear the burden?' " Delany said. "Basically, we felt the Big West should share the burden if anyone should bear the burden."

ESPN, on the other hand, told the Big West, you want your conference championship game televised, you play at 3 p.m. PST. No other time was available.

The NCAA, meanwhile, has a sweet little deal with CBS to announce the NCAA pairings live at 3:30 p.m., a show that Channel 2 was able to carry live.

It was feared that Channel 2, which carried the Pacific 10 tournament final on a delayed basis, might have to also delay the pairings show.

But things worked out in Channel 2's favor.

This is a highly rated show, one basketball fans want to see live.

And 3:30 is as late as CBS is willing to schedule the pairings show. It can't be at 4 p.m. or later, because 4 p.m. is 7 p.m. in the East.

You don't expect television to preempt prime-time programming in the interest of fairness.

The NCAA thus was faced with setting the field before knowing how Long Beach did against Nevada Las Vegas.

The NCAA took the easy way out. It simply said, if Long Beach wins, it's in. It loses, it's out.

Never mind that there are many teams in the tournament less deserving than Long Beach, which Saturday night beat New Mexico State, which is seeded sixth in the West. It was Long Beach's ninth consecutive victory and 22nd of the season.

This is not to say UC Santa Barbara, which beat Long Beach by 15 and 17 points during the regular season, doesn't belong in the tournament.

CBS commentator Billy Packer, asked if television wasn't to blame in this situation, agreed.

"You raise a very good point," he said Sunday. "There's no question television was a factor.

"I thought Delany made a bold statement (when he said the Big West has to bear the burden).

"What you could say is, if we announced the pairings at 11 o'clock at night, then you wouldn't be faced with this problem."

But the NCAA and CBS see a way to make some money, and Cal State Long Beach ends up paying the price.

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