The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee spent time talking about a possible expansion of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship during its three-day meeting this week, though expanding the 68-team field is not imminent.
The discussion followed recommendations made in January by the Division I Transformation Committee, which was formed in 2021 to identify opportunities to modernize college sports and recommend forward-thinking changes for consideration by the NCAA. One of those recommendations included accommodating 25% of a sport’s membership with championship access for sports that have at least 200 participating schools. Not including 11 schools currently in the reclassifying process from Division II, there are 351 Division I institutions that sponsor men’s basketball, translating into 19.4% of schools that make the NCAA tournament. The Association also owns the Men’s National Invitation Tournament, which features 32 teams, increasing the overall percentage to 28.5.
“The committee must be good stewards for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “They are committed to doing their due diligence looking at a few different models to make an informed decision that’s in the best interests of the championship, and that may very well include deciding against expansion.”
The last time the tournament expanded was before the 2011 championship, when the field went from 65 to 68 teams. The field went from 64 to 65 teams in 2001, marking the first time the field had expanded since it went from 53 to 64 in 1985, when there were 282 Division I schools.
“The committee and staff will continue studying options and gathering feedback from various constituents,” Gavitt said. “Whether the tournament expands or not remains to be seen.”
Bubba Cunningham, director of athletics at North Carolina, was also selected as vice chair of the committee for the 2023-24 academic year. Cunningham will support Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Charles McClelland, who will chair the committee starting Sept. 1. Cunningham will chair the committee in 2024-25.
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected by my peers,” Cunningham said. “During my tenure at North Carolina, I’ve seen my colleagues Ron Wellman from Wake Forest (2014) and Kevin White from Duke (2020) chair this group and admired them for having this great professional opportunity. To be able to follow in the footsteps of those men and others, including Charles McClelland, who I look forward to supporting this year, is quite the privilege.”
McClelland and Cunningham will be joined on the committee by Greg Byrne, director of athletics at Alabama; Barry Collier, director of athletics at Butler; Mark Coyle, director of athletics at Minnesota; Keith Gill, commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference; Dave Heeke, director of athletics at Arizona; Arthur Johnson, director of athletics at Temple; Martin Newton, director of athletics at Samford; Rachelle Paul, director of athletics at Saint Peter’s; Jamie Pollard, director of athletics at Iowa State; and Tom Wistrcill, commissioner of the Big Sky Conference. Current Chair Chris Reynolds, vice president of athletics at Bradley, as well as Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, are rotating off the committee.