April Madness 2.0: A Proposal for a Simulated March Madness Tournament — Televised and Streamed
Imagine this fast-tracked Pilot Project, to generate a simulated March Madness Tournament, called April Madness 2.0:
1. The NCAA designates the 68 teams which qualified for the March Madness tournament. (This might require a random drawing, if the conference champ has not been played-out).
2. The 900 players from the 68 teams meet and vote online, to choose a Player Rep, (which might be someone like NCPA’s Ramogi Huma, Economist Andy Schwarz, Jay Bilas, Prof. Richard Southall, Drake Group head and Ohio U professor David Ridpath, Player attorney Rick Johnson – or some combination).
3. The NCAA, its broadcast partners, EA Sports, and the Players’ Rep meet to discuss working agreements, based upon the following concepts:
4. EA Sports, CBS and other broadcast partners, and the NCAA fund the development and production of a template, simulated April Madness 2.0 game, and schedule of such games, which will mimic the format and “three-weekend” timing of the real tournament, suitable for broadcast/streaming.
5. The players will receive fair market value payment, to be negotiated by the Player Rep, for the use of their NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) rights. The player rep will also get appropriate sign-offs from each player.
6. The parties will agree upon a percentage of gross revenues to be dedicated to a Corona Virus national charity, designated by Dr. Anthony Fausci.
6. Game development will be fast-tracked by NCAA and EA Sports staff, in concert with (if necessary) selected, paid top tech/digital students from the 68 schools involved (or, even crowd-sourced smart-guys). The format of the simulated Games will mimic the old EA Sports game which disappeared after the O’Bannon decision.
7. April Madness 2.0 games will be streamed and broadcast on networks, over a three-week period, on a pay-per-view basis, and/or based upon existing contractual obligations which the NCAA has with broadcasters, with the first games to be aired on April 1.
Why Has the NCAA Not Already Produced a April Madness 2.0 Tournament?: It’s the NIL, Stupid
The only reason the NCAA hasn’t done this yet is that does not want to pay NIL rights to the player. (When the O’Bannon court told the NCAA that it had to pay former players like Ed O’Bannon for use of their likeness, the NCAA shut down the EA Sports simulated game.)
Does the Sports Consumer Really ‘Revere’ the Game Because it is ‘Made-by-the-Unpaid’?
The NCAA has long forsworn such NIL payments, because it claims it needs to protect its “Revered Tradition of Amateurism.” This thinking is founded upon some faulty, outdated logic from the old 1984 Regents decision, where Justice Stevens guessed, out of legal thin air, that the TV sports consumer “revered” the NCAA’s TV sports product, because it was ‘Made-by-the-Unpaid.’ (My term, not Stevens’). Even assuming its accuracy in 1984, that notion now has little basis in reality, as is reflected in the pending or recently-passed bills in some 25 states, meant to require that players be allowed such NIL payments, and the fact that the NCAA’s own NIL “Working Group” will, at some point, issue new rules which will, presumably expand player access to NIL payments.
It’s a Perfect Storm for April Madness 2.0, as a Player NIL Experiment
All the pieces are in place for April Madness 2.0, as a perfect petri-dish experiment for testing the consumer-public’s alleged ‘reverence’ for a Made-by-the-Unpaid sports product. After all, the NCAA is now desperate for cash; in fact, the organization’s financial floor has fallen through. The March Madness cancellation left the NCAA without the $1 billion in revenue which three-week ritual generates each year. And NCAA schools which do not participate in the tournament are also now dreading the big cash shortfalls caused by the disappearance of NCAA payouts from that $1 billion March Madness pot. In this context, who – anywhere in the U.S. – would not buy a simulated, streamed, or televised April Madness 2.0 tournament?
Not Staging an April Madness 2.0 is a Finger-in-the-Eye to Fans
We are a nation in crisis; a ‘shut-in’ crisis. We can’t mix with others. We can’t go to work. People are lonely, bored, and anxious. Ordinary life has shut down, and citizens need access to sports. At present, we can’t, while we shelter-in-place, have access to a March Madness tournament which hundreds of millions of us, and millions around the world, have come to love. All because of some highly-subjective, highly-suspect notion, residing in the heads of NCAA managers, that March Madness fans would never possibly buy an April Madness 2.0 online product, for which they are desperate, because no such fan would ever countenance player receipt of NIL payments.
Such an April Madness 2.0 ‘substitute’ tournament could easily already have be generated, were it not for the priggish selfishness of NCAA executives. The NCAA’s Mark Emmert is happy in his Indiana home, drawing a secure $3 million paycheck, every week. NCAA Counsel Remy is happy in his Porsche, drawing his steady $2 million paycheck. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is happy in his home, drawing his $4 million paycheck. These are the sports-manager-fat cats who have done nothing to satisfy their primary duty at this critical juncture: to help the public.
The NCAA has a duty, within this extraordinary social, athletic, political, medical, and financial norm-smashing crisis, to take extraordinary, smash-all-norms, emergency steps, to help the hundreds of millions of fans whose lives are in ‘time-out.’
It’s time to do an April Madness 2.0 NCAA streamed and televised tournament.