With the madness of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament still lurking about, executives from CBS and Turner will now crunch the numbers of their inaugural joint broadcast and look for ways to enhance and broaden the platform for fans, players and marketing partners. Highly respected and profoundly articulate, Clark Kellogg, who has been at the forefront of the event with CBS for nearly two decades, has some thoughts and constructive criticism.
By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
(Posted April 5, 2011)
The just-concluded 2011 Men's Division I Basketball Tournament was the first in a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal that united CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting with the NCAA, marking the first time since 1982 that CBS did not have exclusivity. It was also the first to begin with a field of 68, the first with an opening round called 'First Four,' the first to air games on truTV, TBS and TNT, and the first to include Turner's NBA crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
However, not everything changed. Jim Nantz, who has been associated with CBS college basketball since 1990, was in the booth along with CBS Sports lead college basketball analyst Clark "Special K" Kellogg, who has been part of CBS' coverage of March Madness either as a studio analyst and commentator or game-day announcer for 18 years.
Prior to joining CBS in 1993, Kellogg, a native of Ohio, had a stellar high school career and then college career at Ohio State (1979-82), then was a first round draft pick of the NBA's Indiana Pacers. After being selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1982-83, his career was hampered by chronic knee problems, forcing him to retire after five seasons. From 1990-97, he also served as an analyst for ESPN's regular-season basketball coverage and has worked for the Big East Network and Prime Sports. In addition, he is vice-president of player relations and development for the Pacers and is on the board of trustees at Ohio State, from which he earned a degree in marketing in 1996.
If there was uncertainly about how the public would respond to the added coverage and expanded field for the 2011 March Madness, that has been alleviated by solid viewership numbers. An estimated 99.9 million viewers watched all-or-part of the joint coverage from the First Four on March 15 through the regional finals on March 27, according to Turner Sports and CBS. The 99.9 million viewers represent an 11% increase over 89.6 million for CBS Sports’ coverage in 2010 and is higher than any of the all-or-part viewership that occurred in the past 10 years during the first two weeks of the NCAA Tournament on CBS.
The Final Four doubleheader on CBS April 2 averaged 15.4 million viewers, which was the highest for the semi-final games since 2005 (16.6 million). For the NCAA championship game on April 4, according to overnight figures provided by CBS, the Connecticut-Butler match averaged almost 19 million viewers. For those games, Turner’s Steve Kerr joined Nantz and Kellogg for the first three-man alignment in CBS’ 30 years of covering the Final Four.
Kellogg spoke with NYSportsJournalism regarding the current and future state of March Madness, the broadcast union between CBS Sports and Time Warner division Turner Sports and other areas of basketball and life.
NYSportsJournalism: What you do think about the state of college basketball today?
Clark Kellogg: We already have seen the quality of play in the game decrease a little bit at the pro and college level because the NBA is too young and the college game is not old enough in some cases because of the guys leaving early. You are losing your upper classmen. There is development that takes place in the junior and senior years. Each year is a chance to grow exponentially as a person and a player. All four years. In fact, that is the best time to grow. From the beginning of your freshman year and every year on through the process. And when you eliminate that in the development, you end up with a lot of gaps in your personal life and in your game.
NYSJ: Is this something you are trying to share with people in the NBA?
CK: I work for the Indiana Pacers as vice-president of player relations and development, and I also do games [as a TV/radio analyst and commentator]. I'm seeing it first-hand. But it's not just in the NBA and athletics. Across the board, there are more young people who have deficiencies in their development. They are not given the time to mature because of factors involved to rush them to the next level. It's terrible.
NYSJ: Is being put in the March Madness spotlight part of the problem?
CK: Sure it is. This stuff is being fed to them by their inner circle. It's what I call 'elevator music.' That kind of stuff is going on, and it's crazy. What happened to development? But you know, everything has been sped up. It's a microwave society. We want everything sped up. Technology is part of it. All of the multi-platforms are part of it. Reality TV, all of this stuff that's not really substantive becomes part of our focus and looks as if its life. And the basics are being excused and looked over for the sake of glamour, fame, attention and money. And a lot of kids are stepping out there with a very wrong perspective of the world and are suffering because of that. And our society and our culture also suffers because of that. In a big way.
"[The college athletes] are not given the time to mature because of factors involved to rush them to the next level. It's terrible."
NYSj: You are about as close to the NCAA men's basketball tournament as anyone. What are your feelings about the deal with CBS and Turner?
CK: [The addition of Turner] is exciting. It's always good to interject some changes into what's going on to eliminate the possibility of things becoming stale. So it was great timing. I was actually able to move into the lead analyst position in the studio. I enjoy working in the studio. But it's nice to be at different venues with different opportunities. Obviously, for us at CBS, it was essential that this happened so that we could still be part of it. I don't know if we could have done it solo.
NYSJ: What do you think about expanding from 64 to 68 and opening the tournament with the First Four?
CK: People paid attention before [to the play-in game], but this made it even more part of the tournament. Now it's the First Round, so it's essential. Nobody knows how the viewing public will respond. But [based on ratings and the increased number of viewers from 2010] it is real. The expanded coverage means an influx of new talent, be it on-air, in production and on the court.
NYSJ: The NCAA tournament has expanded several times before, so at what point is it too much?
CK: When I was in my freshman year at Ohio State in 1980, the tournament had just expanded from 40 to 48 teams. By 1985 here were 64 teams. As it became more popular, people wanted more of it. [CBS] was part of the reason for that.
NYSJ: So if CBS, Turner and the NCAA and all the marketing partners look at the numbers after this tournament, are they going to want the First Eight?
CK: I hope not. I hope we stay with and develop and enhance what we now have.
NYSJ: So when all the numbers are crunched, if the expansion to 68 teams is so successful, should the field expand again?
CK: No. We can't expand again. We can't. It dilutes the field. In my opinion, we are at the max. Now there are 68 teams out of roughly 350 [universities with Division I men's basketball teams], that's about 20%. That makes the invitation special. If you start scraping the bottom, again in my opinion, if you go beyond where we are, that dilutes it. You can always make the case that there is one or two more teams that deserve to get in. But there should be a finite number of teams that earn the right to play in this special championship event. If you take that element away, you lose a lot of the appeal of the event.
NYSJ: How important was it to demographics to have guys like Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller, who cover the NBA, covering the college basketball tournament?
CK: Basketball fans are basketball fans. There are some who are more in favor of the NBA and some more in favor of college. I have friends who are far more passionate about college than the NBA, and friends who are far more passionate about the NBA than college. And I have some, like me, who love them both. [We still have to see] if it will expand demographics or enhance it. The product is a great product, so adding to that will still mean the platform is a star. We want to add more to it, more depth and enhancements, without taking away from what really is the main meal. The drama. The unpredictability. With the [expanded] production, the sights of the tournament, the sounds, adding to it is a plus.
"We want to add more to it, more depth and enhancements, without taking away from what really is the main meal. The drama. The unpredictability."
NYSJ: Is it more challenging for your preparations because of the added production and additional teams?
CK: I prepared the way I always prepared. I expect my commentary to be at the highest level. So even before Selection Sunday [March 13], I prepared as if I was going to be covering the tournament in the studio. I wanted to know enough about everybody. My goal is that when I get to a site, I want to be able to have seen those teams either live or on DVR before I get there. And have in my notebook thumbnail sketches of every team. Part of what helps me do that is the conference championships because that gives me the opportunity to see most, if not all, of the teams that will be in the NCAA tournament.
NYSJ: Is there any way to predict what will happen with the tournament moving forward?
CK: No. But that's part of the excitement.
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