Time for NCAA to take the NIT out behind the barn and put an end to its misery 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Hinkle Fieldhouse (Photo by C Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Madison Square Garden will end their over 80-year relationship of hosting the NIT in New York.

The classic film ‘Gone with the Wind’ was released back in 1939 and features one of the most famous lines in cinematic history when Scarlett O’Hara is questioning the end of her tumultuous relationship with her lover Rhett and asks him, “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” 

Rhett famously responds, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The National Invitational Tournament (NIT) began in New York City not long before the release of ‘Gone with the Wind’ in 1938 where the semi-finals and final have been played annually at Madison Square Garden ever since. 

However, this past week, MSG told the NCAA to find a new home for the NIT starting in 2023 with this years final being the last. Just like Rhett wanting out of his futile relationship with Scarlett, MSG has finally decided to break it off with the NCAA and their outdated NIT.

The NIT was once a meaningful event but with the advent of the NCAA tournament expanding into the financial juggernaut its become over the years, the NIT became more and more irrelevant each passing year and its time they put an end to it. 

The NIT features many teams who just missed out on being invited or qualifying for March Madness which now consists of a field of 68 teams. So in essence, the winner of the NIT gets to claim the title of being 69th best in America. 

That just doesn’t move the needle anymore.

As a former agent and concert promoter for over 20 years, I’ve produced concerts in major arenas all across North America often in partnership with big name agencies like William Morris, CAA, ICM and more. 

Why hold MSG for a week in March for the NIT when they can easily partner with the likes of Live Nation, AEG, CAA or William Morris to book multiple concert dates for superstars like U2, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, Kanye West or dozens of other bands that would easily out-sell those NIT games and provide much higher rental fees and significantly more concessions profits from a sold out venue. 

A company like MSG doesn’t need or like be associated with second rate events.

The 2019 NIT final between Texas and Lipscomb sold a reported 4,051 tickets at MSG which is barely 20 percent of the arena capacity (19,812) for basketball. The 2018 final with Penn State v Utah brought in 11,175 fans, which is 56 percent of the capacity.

It’s not show-friends, its show-business. 

By MSG quietly breaking off a relationship with the NIT that is over 80 years, the NCAA should perhaps take a good look in the mirror and figure out what changes need to be made. 

Although the quarterfinals, semi-finals and final game of the NIT don’t overlap with March Madness games, the opening round games do conflict with the much higher profile NCAA Tournament games. 

Regardless, its time to take the NIT out behind the barn and put an end to its misery. 

The NCAA needs to explore more suitable options than the lacklustre NIT and CBI postseason tournaments for the many schools that don’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. 

Essentially what the NCAA is doing by having the NIT overlap with the NCAA Tournament is like  the organizers of Coachella throwing a separate music festival featuring up and coming indie rocks bands down the street from the main Coachella festival which features the A-List of music every year; its beyond pointless. 

This is an age when NCAA players can profit from their name, image and likeness so perhaps explore financial or scholarship incentives for student-athletes and non-student athletes for schools that win a secondary postseason tournament that differs from March Madness. 

The NCAA needs to create something much bigger and voguish than the NIT or CBI because neither is considered cool and the cool kids like MSG don’t want anything to do with them anymore.