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NCAA's Charles McClelland talks March Madness with Scripps News

We hear from Charles McClelland, chair of the NCAA Division I men's basketball selection committee, about this year's tournament and its reception.
NCAA's Charles McClelland talks March Madness with Scripps News
Posted at 6:23 PM, Apr 01, 2024

Scripps News spoke with Charles McClelland, chair of the NCAA Division I men's basketball selection committee and the first person to represent historically Black colleges and universities in the position.

How is the NCAA men's tournament going so far?

"I think we did relatively well," McClelland said. "There could be some that would disagree with that, but we have two of our No. 1 seeds going. Obviously, NC State has had a magical run ... But when you look at the tournament, we've broken records as far as viewership is concerned. Attendance has been at capacity. So the student athletes are having a great experience. The nation, as usual, they're loving the tournament. So far so good, knock on wood. We still have four teams, two games left. "

What's it like to watch this tournament as a person who played such a major role in picking the teams?

"To be on site, to be able to watch these teams perform at such a high level each year, and to be a part of such a magnificent event is humbling," McClelland said. "But again, a lot of good work that's done throughout all of these institutions: the presidents, the athletic directors, the student athletes. And this is what March is all about, March Madness. This is America and this is what we do for three weeks in March and one week in April."

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What was it like to see the reaction play out after you released the bracket on Selection Sunday?

"Ninety-nice percent good, as you can imagine," McClelland said. "One of the big controversies was there were three Big East teams that got in, and obviously the Big East are accustomed to more teams. So we've definitely heard it from their fans.

"Fans are passionate. And we know that. That's what makes this tournament great. So with a lot of good, there comes some bad. Nothing over the top, but we definitely heard from both sides."

How have you seen the NCAA's new name, image and likeness rules change the landscape, especially for HBCUs?

"Part of the issue that we had, the issue with selections, was that we had five bid-stealers," McClelland said. "Those are teams that are in their conference tournament but were not already in our tournament. So the fact that they won those games actually took a slot away from a bubble team. We've never had five in one year. To put it in perspective, over the last three years, we've only had two bid-stealers. That is a result of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness."

"It has opened up the opportunity for institutions such as those in the Southwestern Athletic Conference to be able to go in the portal, create some knowledge through name, image and likeness, and be able to kind of even the playing field," McClelland said. "So ultimately what you're seeing in the sport of college basketball is a more evening of those teams. Yes, the blue bloods are still blue bloods, but there are those that are up and coming and it makes it a much better opportunity for mid-majors such as schools in the Southwestern Athletic Conference get that type of talent."

There's been some criticism of the timing of the transfer portal opening up during March Madness. What is the future of the transfer portal in the sport?

"The future has been solidified. Once you open up that bottle and let that genie out, it's going to be difficult to put it back in," McClelland said. "I think that we will constantly look at those dates. We were constantly look at when the portal opens, when you'll be able to sign your national letter of intent, those conversations are ongoing. And I think now that the NCAA has kind of recognized that they needed to be a little bit more nimble, they're starting to do that. The NCAA is made up of the membership. So we have a lot to say about that process. There was debate from the basketball coaches as to when the transfer portal was to open. Some wanted it earlier, some wanted it later. There's not a perfect answer, but we will continue to strive to make it as good a process as it could possibly be."

"Giving student athletes the opportunity to transfer is something that not only the NCAA supports, but the membership supports," McClelland said. "And again, when those days open and when those days close, we will continue to work with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee along with the commissioners, athletic directors, coaches to make sure that we on top of all of the ongoing issues, the timing changes, to try to ensure that occurs when everybody wants it to occur."

SEE MORE: Iowa's Caitlin Clark to battle LSU's Angel Reese in Elite Eight

What is it about the women's game right now that's making it so popular?

"It's exciting! And I think ultimately when you look at the opportunity for our women's teams to be broadcast on a national basis, that's always the precipice of being able to grow," McClelland said. "And more people are now being able to watch women's basketball in prime time. And then you have the Angel Reeses and the Caitlin Clarks that have been able to bring that level of excitement. That game tonight is going to be where everybody will be to watch."

"You have those superstars. You have the ability to be in prime time on national television that is creating that buzz. And everybody's been able to see what we knew all along: The brand of women's basketball is just as exciting as the men," said McClelland.

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