Ancient Eight athletic directors will meet in New York today to discuss a potential postseason tournament for their men’s basketball programs.
The Ivy League is the only Division I basketball conference without such a tournament, and the proposal has come up several times in previous years, Yale men’s basketball head coach James Jones said. This meeting is the culmination of an inquiry by an ad hoc committee set up to consider the prospect of a postseason competition.
Jones said that he thinks a tournament would be a positive change for Yale and its seven fellow Ivies.
“Most schools have supported the idea,” Jones said. “I don’t know why they would be against it. But people don’t like a lot of change.”
Changes to the formats of the NCAA and NIT tournaments prompted the Ivy athletic directors’ decision to look more closely into the possibility of a new playoff system, Jones said. Now, the regular season champion of every conference is guaranteed a bid in the NIT regardless of how they fare in the conference postseason. An Ivy League postseason tournament would create the opportunity for more than one Ivy League team to compete in a national tournament in March.
In the 2002 season, there was a “mini-tournament” to select the team to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament because Yale, Penn and Princeton all finished the season 11-3, Yale Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Tim Bennett said. Yale beat Princeton in Game 1 but lost to Penn in the bid-deciding game.
“1,500 Yale students were bussed to the game,” Bennett said. “It was tremendous to see all of them in the stands.”
Bennett said it would be great to see such enthusiasm again, and, from what he has heard, most coaches are in favor of having a tournament.
But Penn Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky said the consensus among athletic directors has been that the full round-robin schedule is the best and fairest method to designate a league champion and qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. He said the competition during the regular season becomes less meaningful for sports like track and swimming that already have Ivy tournaments.
“While these tournaments can be made to sound glamorous and exciting, many conference leaders will tell you privately that they often fall short of expectations,” he said.
Brown Director of Sports Information Chris Humm said he does not think the Ivy League will make the change.
“[A postseason tournament] has been proposed many times by men’s basketball coaches,” he said. “But it has never been viewed favorably by Ivy League presidents.”
Jones said university presidents have not traditionally favored the idea of a postseason tournament. Even if the athletic directors vote to endorse the change today, they would have to seek approval of both a policy committee and the presidents, he said.
Yale guard Eric Flato ’07 said the team has not been well-informed of the discussions of the ad hoc committee this fall, and he only learned of today’s meeting earlier this week. He said it would be exciting if the Ivy League had a postseason tournament, though the absence of such a competition is part of what makes the Ivy League special.
But Flato said a major problem with the current round-robin format is that losing just a few games puts a team out of the running for an NCAA bid.
Jones said he remains hopeful for the possibility of such a tournament.
“It would be tremendous for the eight campuses,” he said. “It would put all the schools in the running for March Madness.”