Gazelle Group president Rick Giles told the Associated Press yesterday that the CBI is here to stay.
The championship series, which concludes tonight when Bradley plays Tulsa in a decisive Game 3, has been a hit at the box offices at both schools, with the Braves drawing better than 9,000 for Game 2, which they won to extend the series.
Giles' view as that after a shaky start in which the tournament field wasn't announced until 2 a.m. on the Monday after Selection Sunday and first-round attendance and enthusiasm was lacking, the CBI gained momentum and attention from the fans of teams still playing.
The attendance figures in the championship series certainly support that claim.
I thought the most interesting part of the story was this:
Giles said one factor was a cease-and-desist letter that the NIT sent to the CBI a day earlier (before Selection Sunday).
"That really got us all screwed up. They were telling teams, 'Don't play in this event. 'Don't talk to these guys,'" said Giles.
Here's my take on the situation:
From the minute I first read about the CBI, I had mixed feelings about it.
One one hand, I love mid-major college basketball. Selfishly, I wanted Rider to keep playing this year because it meant that my basketball season would be extended. And I think for players, coaches, and other people very close to the teams -- cheerleaders, band members, school administrators, and yes, beat writers -- the CBI is great.
But you can't have a tournament solely for the purpose of fulfilling the dreams of teams and people immediately connected to those teams. If you're going to do that, you might as well let all 341 Division I teams play in postseason tournaments.
The CBI, therefore, will only work if the concept of a third tournament ends up making money --- or at least not losing it -- for the participating schools and the Gazelle Group.
Each school had to fork over $60,000 to host first-round games, and several teams -- including Old Dominion, which hosted Rider -- lost thousands of dollars by hosting a game.
Essentially, then, teams like ODU were making an investment.
The Monarchs took a loss on the game in hopes that playing in the postseason would be in the short term and long term interest of the program.
In the short term, ODU's players got to play an extra two games. In the long term, the question is: will the effect of playing in the postseason help them with recruiting, marketing he program, and building toward future success?
Maybe it will. Maybe not.
This year, eight teams thought it was worth the investment to host a first-round game. Several teams -- Wake Forest, New Mexico State and Alabama, to name three -- didn't. They decided to call it a year rather than play in the CBI, which delivered a blow, in my opinion, to the CBI's viability.
I'm interested to see what happens with the CBI going forward, and I'll have to get Rick Giles on the phone or go see him sometime soon to get a better handle on this.
Giles says the tournament is here to stay, but there hasn't been an announcement for a TV deal or any kind of sponsorship for next year's tournaments. And ultimately, you can only have a tournament if you have enough credible teams who want to play.
Let's hear some feedback.
Rider fans: did it mean anything to you that the Broncs played in the CBI, or did you feel that the season ended with the blowout loss to Siena in the MAAC tournament title game?
Fairfield and other MAAC fans: did you pay any attention to the CBI even though your team wasn't in it? And if your team WAS in it, do you think it would have provided a major boost for your team's program?