How to Make the NCAA Tournament More TV Friendly, If We Must Remain on ESPN

The NCAA Tournament begins today at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The NCAA Tournament is a lot of fun, and will be a lot more fun for many viewers who have gotten more invested in college hockey this season due to the sport’s increased television exposure on NBCSN, CBSSN, Big Ten Network and beyond.

There are two problems with the NCAA Tournament, from the way I see it. Number one is that it has a horrendous television deal with ESPN, done as a blanket contract with dozens of other sports that aren’t hoops or football, it will only provide viewers with eight live, televised games out of 12 total that are being held over the three-day weekend. The other four will be aired live on ESPN3, the network’s web service, and various syndicated stations before airing via tape delay on ESPNU.

That’s not a bad percentage, but when you consider that an NCAA Basketball Tournament with 67 games has found a way to televise all of them. What’s even more glaring is the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, which has an equal 15 game schedule to it, was televised live across ESPN2 and ESPNU, with all games shown live on television. That’s right, ESPN has found a way to get every game from a lacrosse tournament on its’ airwaves, but not hockey. That’s disgraceful, but it also plays into the second half of the NCAA Hockey Tournament’s problem.

Now, hockey’s a little different from lacrosse in terms of the early-round game sites. The first round of the lacrosse tournament is hosted by the top seeds, whereas the hockey teams (much like basketball) gather into “regionals” of four. This make’s scheduling a little more difficult, because the regions aren’t able to space games out because they want to keep folks in the building. This needs to stop, because it is prohibitive in getting games on TV. These games need to be scheduled so that all of them can air. You can’t blame ESPN (well, I can and have) for doing the best with what the NCAA gives it. There’s no reason that the four games on Friday can’t be spaced out so that, if they end in regulation, all can be aired on ESPNU.

I have two separate plans for making this better. Both involve spacing games out each day so they can air on TV, and both involve adding an extra day to one of the regionals. But both don’t seem too ridiculous. Hell, the regional hosts could sell both games separately and possibly make more cash this way.

Here’s plan #1, which goes with the current Friday-Sunday format, just spacing things out a bit:

Plan #1

Friday

1:00 p.m. ET - East #1
3:30 p.m. ET - Midwest #1
6:00 p.m. ET - East #2
8:30 p.m. ET - Midwest #2

Saturday
12:00 p.m. ET -
 Northeast #1
2:30 p.m. ET – West #1
5:00 p.m. ET – Northeast #2
7:30 p.m. ET –
East Final
10:00 p.m. ET – West #2

Sunday

2:00 p.m. ET - Midwest Final
5:00 p.m. ET - Northeast Final
8:00 p.m. ET - West Final

Now here’s plan #2, in which the tournament would begin on Saturday to make the spacing out of games more fan friendly (i.e. kids will be out of school no matter when you start the games) and there’ll be a triple-header on a championship Monday.

Plan #2

Saturday
1:00 p.m. ET - East #1
3:30 p.m. ET - Midwest #1
6:00 p.m. ET - East #2
8:30 p.m. ET - Midwest #2

Sunday
12:00 p.m. ET -
 Northeast #1
2:30 p.m. ET - West #2
5:00 p.m. ET - East Final
7:30 p.m. ET - Northeast #2
10:00 p.m. ET – West #2

Monday

4:00 p.m. ET - Midwest Final
6:30 p.m. ET - Northeast Final
9:00 p.m. ET - West Final


I don’t know enough about college hockey to know if this is realistic, but from a TV perspective, it would leave ESPN without excuses for dumping early-round games on the internet. If you’re a college hockey fan, please leave me your thoughts in the comments. I am, and I assume any good hockey fan not named Don Cherry is, very interested in helping the college game gain more notoriety.

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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

4 Responses to How to Make the NCAA Tournament More TV Friendly, If We Must Remain on ESPN

  1. Dave says:

    Why not just have an off day during the regionals? Thursday-Saturday and Friday-Sunday.

    As for ESPN’s treatment of the Frozen Four, it occured to me that the shortened NBA season might be to blame. They might be airing the double header – in part – because of lost games. That brings me to another idea. The NBA doesn’t schedule any games the night of the NCAA Final. What if the Frozen Four were played on Saturday and Monday? The NHL regular season would end on Sunday – usually – so there’d only be the one hockey game Monday night.

  2. Mr Buckey says:

    I suggest another scheduling proposal: Thursday: Region “A” – 6:30 and 9pm EDT semifinal games; Friday: Region “B” – 6:30 and 9pm EDT semifinal games; Saturday: Region “C” – 11am and 1:30pm EDT semifinal games, Region “D” – 4pm and 6:30 EDT semifinal games, Region “A” – 9pm EDT regional final; Sunday: Region “B” – 5pm EDT regional final, Region “C” – 8pm EDT regional final; and Monday: Region “D” – 8pm EDT regional final. Having a day off between semis and finals for three of the four regions will create better and more entertaining games, as players are fatigued at this point of the year from the long season and a greater number of games in recent weeks. And the NCAA hockey tournament needs to be moved one week further into March and April so there is less competition with the NCAA basketball tournament’s first two weekends, and get rid of that open weekend between the round of 16 and the national semifinals/finals that NCAA hockey has been scheduling the last several years and beyond.

  3. bomber says:

    Are you telling me you can’t follow a puck online.The B.C./Air Force was delayed coverage because of lacrosse.You had the two boston area teams playing at the same time saturday. A close to nine o’clock sunday night faceoff regional final.

  4. bubblescreen says:

    I think it should be scheduled similar to how the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament is schedule currently on ESPN.

    Two regions have their semis on Saturday. Two regions have their semis on Sunday. So 2 days of quadruple-headers.

    Then 2 finals on Monday, 2 finals on Tuesday.

    Even if it stayed on ESPNU – they could air all those games.

    Of course, it would be much better for everyone involved if the rights went to NBCSN. They would do a pregame show and make it seems like a big deal.

    Also agree with the person above that the Frozen Four should be scheduled like the Final Four – 2 games on Saturday, title game Monday night.

    The way to schedule is already there – the NCAA figured it out for basketball. Why they have hockey tournament games played in front of empty crowds on weekday afternoons boggles my mind.

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