Broken Brackets Lead Down So Many Roads
Madness has truly set in during this tournament and it really couldn’t be more fun. Working in college athletics definitely reduced my interest in filling out a bracket. Each year the compliance office reminds you of the papers that you signed sometime last June. The mass of yearly regulations that you agreed to, basically tell you that you cannot bet on anything that involves humans. Games of chance and horses are OK according to the NCAA, I guess. The true benefit of such agreements, when followed, are that you end up truly enjoying the spirit of competition and the pure jubilation that the student-athletes experience when they accomplish feats, like championships or upset victories in an NCAA tournament.
This year was the first year in 20 or so years that I filled out a bracket for a cash prize, in the 104.5 The Team and LaBatt Blue Light Million Dollar Bracket Challenge, a million for a perfect bracket and $10,000 for 60 wins. I had zero expectations of winning and from the looks of it, I could come in last place, which could be fun too. The good thing is I couldn’t be getting more enjoyment out of watching these games, rooting against my bracket!
You will too when you understand what these victories mean to places like Abilene Christian, Oral Roberts and Loyola Chicago. These wins equal NCAA dollars that come from that $770 million annual TV contract. Those dollars have positive impacts on the winning campuses and across their conferences. The media exposure alone for these institutions have huge financial impacts on applications and enrollment.
So when I see things like Ohio State basketball player E.J. Liddle receiving death threats following the Buckeyes opening round loss to the Cinderella story of this wild tournament, Oral Roberts, I lose my mind. Yes, Ohio State is a big institution and their coaches make a lot of money. Their student-athletes receive scholarships and other marginal benefits for being a student-athlete like travel, workout clothing and a cost of living stipend (that is basically equal to what the general student would get if they worked as many hours as the student-athlete does at their respective sport). It’s a couple of thousand dollars per semester. It’s certainly not worth having your life threatened over.
These student-athletes feel badly enough missing a foul shot in overtime. They are emotionally crushed that they will not advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament in pursuit of their dream that they’ve worked at for years, many hours per day while they attend classes. No one deserves death threats. Period. But for a basketball game? Against a 20 year old kid? Let’s steer the ship back in the right direction and get some perspective.
It’s awesome to cheer for your team or your bracket to win. When we begin to attach more than the competitive disappointment of losing to the contest, well, then it may be time to change your game. It’s been an awesome tournament for some really special student-athletes. Enjoy it.