• Extra Points
  • Posts
  • MAILBAG!: Ending tournament autobids, the Extra Points origin story, and more:

MAILBAG!: Ending tournament autobids, the Extra Points origin story, and more:

Let's answer some reader questions!

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

This edition of Extra Points is brought to you in part by Sideline Design

I know very little about graphic design…and between reporting, writing, ad sales and everything else I have to do with Extra Points, I don’t think I have the time to learn. So when I need to make promotional graphics for Instagram or elsewhere, I use Sideline Design. It’s a tool built specifically to help athletic departments make recruiting and promotional graphics fast, but it’s great for publishers too. I made that graphic right here in about 15 minutes.

It’s been a few weeks, and I have a few other reported stories that still need more time in the oven, so you know what that means….MAILBAG TIME!

As always, mailbag questions are accepted on a rolling basis, and can be submitted via Twitter DM, my mentions, or email.

Reader Anchor Of Gold asks:

I don’t think ending automatic bids is going to happen tomorrow or anything, and it’s possible it never happens in the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. But I legitimately think it’s a real possibility in other NCAA postseason events, and I know these concepts are being floated in administrator conversations throughout college sports. There were industry people pushing for this in basketball last summer.

If you’re an industry person representing the interests of power conferences, part of the argument is about the “quality of the tournament.” Bubble teams like Cincinnati, Wake Forest and Colorado are top 40 squads in KenPom, and they could all potentially miss the NCAA Tournament, while a few squads with sub-250 rankings will earn automatic bids.

In other sports, like men’s lacrosse and men’s hockey, I think you could, with a straight face, argue that teams good enough to make a Final Four might completely miss the tournament, simply because the number of automatic bids is small. I don’t think you can do this for basketball, but certainly some folks will try.

So if the only thing that matters to you is seeing the highest quality competition at every level of a championship event, yeah, you’d probably support reforming (or eliminating) automatic bids in favor of adding more at-large teams.

Plus, if you were representing the interests of a P4 conference, and your league was a defendant in a gazillion dollar antitrust suit, and you know that in the next few years your schools will also need to directly share revenue with athletes…well, you now have a very clear incentive to maximize as much revenue as you possibly can.

If controlling more postseason opportunities means your league can control more of the tournament revenue, well, I can certainly understand why running roughshod over Marist and UMKC would look even more attractive.

There are also some ADs and conference leaders who would be open to potentially having a different postseason event for departments at a different resource level. I’ve never heard this for men’s or women’s basketball, but a secondary volleyball tournament for athletic department budgets under $40 million or something? There could be interest in something like that, perhaps.

For what it’s worth, I hate the idea of breaking up low-major access to the NCAA basketball tournaments. Hate it. I know what the TV consultants say, I know that everybody probably makes more money by killing Cinderella in favor of an 12-bid Big 12…but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Not everything needs to be perfectly economically optimized!

I could talked into the potential wisdom of creating multiple postseasons for different Olympic sports. But I don’t want it for college basketball. A basketball tournament that has no room for Quinnipiac is a fundmentally less interesting event for me.

I’m going to give a cop-out of an answer here. I think it’s whatever sport continues to get access to linear television opportunities.

There’s good reason to think the answer to this question should be women’s volleyball. If you put a good women’s game on TV, it’ll draw over a million viewers. Big Ten Network games draw hundreds of thousands of viewers, and high school participation in the sport has skyrocketed all over the country. Plus, we already know that with the right planning, you can get a whole hell of a lot of people to watch a match in person.

There are many great reasons to be bullish on the short-term future of women’s volleyball, but sustaining this momentum, in my opinion, depends on other leagues and broadcast partners continuing to make broadcasting the events a priority. You can’t just park all of your best inventory on your conference network, or behind a paywall, and assume that you’ll break viewership numbers, just because your teams are awesome. These matches need to be on linear television, promoted by school and broadcast partners, and treated like the events they are.

That’s true for every sport that has real growth potential, from women’s basketball to softball, college baseball to college hockey and more.

If I had to start a completely new sports media entity right now and couldn’t write about the stuff I’ve been doing, I would absolutely throw money at growing a publication aimed at women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, or softball. There’s more ad desire out there than there is existing media inventory, and there are plenty more fans, (and potential fans) who haven’t been served yet.

Whoever gets the best broadcast attention will get the eyeballs. It could be just about any of those sports…but I think women’s basketball and women’s volleyball probably have the best chance, thanks to their high levels of youth participation and more national distribution of elite programs.

Okay, roughly 5000 people have asked me this over the last week, so let me answer it one more time.

When are we getting a college basketball video game? What needs to happen with the college football video game to help make that happen?

To the best of my knowledge, no AAA studio or company is actively working on developing a stand-alone college basketball video game at this exact moment.

The calculus here is a bit different from college football products. Unlike the NCAA Football series, college basketball video games weren’t always big sellers, and the series was discontinued before college football video game production was suspended. College basketball is a way more niche sport than college football, after all. The total possible market isn’t as big.

AAA video game development has only become more expensive and more complicated over the last decade, and the appetite among major companies to license new sports-related IP that likely only has the potential to sell “kinda well” has diminished.

That being said, all is not lost. I’ve been repeatedly told that the licensing, and video game worlds are closely watching how EA Sports College Football 25 performs. While obviously it would be a positive sign for the game to become a major commercial success, I’m told there is also industry interest in how expensive, and how logistically easy, the licensing and contract execution process goes.

If it becomes easier (and more affordable) to officially license 10K+ athletes for a video game project, well, it becomes easier to convince companies to do it, including more indie developers.

It would be a positive development for athletes and consumers if the video game industry had demand for athlete IP beyond EA Sports College Football. Hell, if it was affordable and easy to do, I’d look into buying licenses for Athletic Director Simulator 4000, or future game development projects with Extra Points. I could absolutely see another indie developer, after EACFB25 comes out, take a swing at non-AAA college basketball product.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up for the immediate return of NCAA College Basketball for the PS5 next year. But a different kind of basketball video game project? Sure, it could happen.

Reader Arkoin asks,

“How did you get into journalism?”

I’ll roll this one in with a question I get a lot when speaking to college classes…”how did Extra Points start?”

I’ll give the long story here. It’ll make more sense that way.

When I was a kid, my first dream job was to become a computer programmer. I fell in love with point-and-click adventure games, like the King’s Quest series from Sierra, or Sam & Max from Lucasarts…games that were centered around telling stories, rather than just blowing away bad guys. I taught myself BASIC, and even made a few terrible games in high school, before I made a tragic discovery. I was bad at math.

And what happens to smart kids who aren’t very good at math? They decide to become lawyers.

So I went off to college thinking that I’d get a political science degree, then become some sort of world-saving education-policy lawyer. But during my senior year at Ohio State, I got an internship with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, working as an intern in their antitrust division. And I made another tragic discovery. Document review sucks.

Realizing that document review sucks and that the global financial system was falling apart and maybe borrowing $150,000 to become a lawyer wasn’t a great investment, I thought I’d pivot to writing. But I didn’t have the money to transfer colleges again or stay in school another year to change majors. So I spent my senior year working as a stringer, covering high school sports around Ohio, while freelancing for the Ohio State student newspaper. I had also gotten a job with Teach For America and hoped I might be able to get a real writing job once I finished that teaching commitment.

I wasn’t a very good elementary school teacher and quickly realized I didn’t want to that for the rest of my career. But I couldn’t get any writing job, even getting turned down multiple times by my hometown paper, The Newark Advocate. So I tried my hand at political organizing, helping run field offices in Indiana during the 2012 election cycle. That made me realize that I didn’t want to work in politics anymore and never wanted to knock on another stranger’s door in my life.

I spent the next few years working dead-end staffing and marketing jobs, while writing at night….sometimes HS sports, sometimes columns, sometimes blogs for SB Nation. I had just gotten married, and was about to quit the writing racket entirely to go get an MBA…when SB Nation offered me a full-time job. That job lasted for nearly seven years, and during that time, I learned how to file FOIAs, how to be a reporter, what sort of stories deeply interested me, and how to carve out a niche for myself on the internet.

When Vox laid me off (along with virtually everybody else in sports) in 2020, I decided to go solo and make Extra Points my full-time gig. That would have been impossible without all of these other experiences in my life.

I wouldn’t know how to cover the stuff I cover, (or that I’d even like it), without spending years doing work that had nothing to do with writing or college sports. I wouldn’t have thought to make ADS3000 without spending years goofing off in Adventure Game Studio. I’m not sure if I’d have this sort of career at all if I had gone to Ohio University and tried the Serious Professional Standardized Journalism Career Trajectory path.

This path took a little longer than I would have liked, but it’s the one that has taken me where I wanted to go. And if you’re reading this and contemplating a career in writing, or sports, or something else…know that there is probably more than one path to where you want to go as well.

This edition of Extra Points is brought to you in part by Athliance:

Experience seamless NIL management with PointGuard by Athliance – the only API-driven solution that fully integrates automatic disclosures from Marketplaces, Collectives, Agencies, and Athletes. Gain complete visibility and control, ensuring compliance across any platform you choose to work with. Learn more about how Athliance can make your NIL management easier here.

If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS4000, good news! We have a few unsold slots left for March. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips or FOIAs you want to share, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky.

If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS4000, good news! We have open inventory in April. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips or FOIAs you want to share, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky.

Join the conversation

or to participate.