The ACC’s proposal for an all-inclusive NCAA men’s basketball tournament that would feature every Division I team does not currently have the backing of the event’s leadership.
On Thursday, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the organization is not considering a “contingency plan” to expand the tournament, a day after ACC men’s basketball coaches, in a movement led by Duke‘s Mike Krzyzewski, proposed a field that would include every Division I team in the 2021 NCAA tournament after a Wednesday vote.
“Every college basketball team’s goal is to play in the NCAA tournament because everyone loves March Madness,” Gavitt said in a statement. “Certainly we missed it this year and can’t wait for 2021. While all who care about the game are entitled to their opinion, and we’ll always listen respectfully, at this time we are not working on any contingency plan that involves expanding the tournament field.”
Gavitt previously told ESPN in multiple conversations that the NCAA intended to keep its event in March and April while offering leagues flexibility to select their automatic qualifiers. He also said the NCAA has explored the idea of using replacement teams to continue the tournament if a team is eliminated because of a positive test for COVID-19.
There are concerns, sources said, outside the ACC about the costs attached to a tournament that would be more than five times larger than the current field.
Sources inside the league have told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that several ACC coaches would prefer to avoid nonconference games. Those games are a financial pipeline for non-Power 5 leagues that might face difficult financial predicaments as they approach the 2020-21 campaign. The cancellation of the 2020 tournament cost the NCAA nearly $300 million, cash that would have gone to those schools.
Gavitt said recently that the NCAA will find a way to host its annual tournament, even if a bubble is necessary, next season.
But one ACC source said the league is “all-in” on this proposal, which essentially pits Gavitt, the NCAA’s top basketball leader, against Krzyzewski, the most powerful coach in college basketball.
Krzyzewski cited health and safety concerns and a desire to unify the sport in his statement backing the proposal.
“Given the uncertainty of this upcoming season, I join my fellow ACC coaches in fully supporting the inclusion of all eligible Division I teams to participate in the 2021 NCAA tournament,” Krzyzewski said. “This is not a regular season. It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”
Next week, the Division I Council will announce key decisions about the start date and other elements of the upcoming season in men’s and women’s basketball.