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Coaches, college officials praise NCAA

NEW YORK (AP) — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was one of the leading proponents for expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams, and even he liked what he heard Thursday.

The NCAA announced plans to increase the field for the men's tourney from 65 to 68 teams beginning next year, satisfying many critics who were worried that massive expansion would ruin one of college sports' marquee events.

"As a coach I'd like to see more people get in but 68 is a good step and the easiest way, to have the least amount of turmoil," Boeheim said. "It's better than nothing. There's really no way to do a little bit bigger expansion. You can't expand by eight, 10. There's no way to figure that out.

"This is the easiest way and hopefully down the road there will be a bigger expansion."

Boeheim was just one of several coaches and college officials who praised the NCAA for its measured step on the same day it unveiled a new, $10.8 billion broadcasting deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting that will allow every tournament game to be shown live nationally for the first time.

"With the addition of three more teams to the field, the basic structure of the tournament will not be impacted significantly in the foreseeable future," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "As a coach, I am very pleased with this result."

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, the incoming tournament committee chair, was ecstatic that he wouldn't have to manage a 96-team field.

"It was thought that 96 teams would generate more money to support the NCAA's many sports and initiatives," Smith said. "But we were all able to come to an understanding that gives us the support without adding that many teams."

The NCAA had been widely criticized for all the talk about expanding the field. NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen faced repeated questions at the Final Four about how many classes players would miss during a longer tournament. Some coaches even rejected the notion that adding so many teams was a good thing.

"I really was torn myself with what to do, so taking the field to 68 seems like a good step," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "This will give them time to decide if this just an intermediate step to a larger event or not. There are so many good teams, and adding three more helps get some of them in the bracket without tarnishing the specialness of the tournament."

Connecticut's Jim Calhoun was against a larger field all along.

"We would have made 96-team field this year. We would have been in that next group. I didn't think we were good enough to make the field based on what the tournament has been," he said. "It's a great thing, a special thing and it should stay that way. There will be more pressure now on teams to make it but I like the idea of it being special as opposed to not. I'm concerned with messing with something that's been so good."

Big East commissioner John Marinatto said a bigger field isn't necessarily in the future.

"Everyone says to me it seems like it's inevitable, but nobody I've talked to embraces it," he said of a 96-team field. "So why is it inevitable?"

And Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said that because the NCAA increased revenue without drastically affecting the integrity of the tournament Thursday's announcement was a "win-win for everybody."