Bellarmine Snubbed: Why NCAA Won’t Let New D-I Schools Into March Madness

Written By Stephen Andress on March 13, 2022
bellarmine men's basketball

The Bellarmine men’s basketball team was the first in 25 seasons to win a conference tournament while not being eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Typically, a conference tournament championship comes with an automatic bid into the March Madness brackets.

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If you’ve been following the story out of Louisville, you know it’s because schools transitioning form Division II to Division I must wait four years before playin in NCAA postseason events.

But why? What is the purpose for the NCAA installing that waiting period? Perhaps the two best words to describe why are finances and logistics.

WDRB sports reporter Eric Crawford explained it well:

The rationale behind the rule is to allow programs to get up to speed, to build the necessary compliance, facilities, scholarship requirements and other standards to satisfy D-1 membership. Originally, the NCAA instituted a two-year process for reclassification, but that was doubled when teams began to make the jump and were unable to sustain Division I membership because they made the move too soon and could not keep up financially.

It’s meant to protect universities from taking on more expense than they can handle. The four-year process is designed to weed out less serious programs and to keep a flood of programs from rushing into Division I before they are ready.”

It certainly seems there could be some middle ground here. If the NCAA is concerned Bellarmine would take on too much expense in playing in the NCAA Tournament as a new D-I school, why couldn’t there be regulatory oversight and guidance by either the NCAA or ASun on budgeting and planning?

Why couldn’t fellow ASun athletic departments who have successfully participated in March Madness share those learnings with the new kid on the block? After all, the money that comes from March Madness appearances is shared among conference schools.

Because of this rare situation, the ASun decided before its conference tournament even started that if Bellarmine won it, the regular season champion would get the automatic bid instead. So Jacksonville State will be in the brackets, despite losing in the conference tournament semifinal.

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Just seems like another rule that ultimately punishes the players most, with rigid restrictions and no opportunity to work together for better outcomes, learnings and growth.

What better way for Bellarmine to prove it can sustain as a D-I school than to play in the NCAA’s premier event – but with  mentors who have been there before to guide the Knights. You know. Like college students and professors.

For now, Bellarmine men’s basketball is locked out. You worked too hard and played too well, Knights.

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Stephen Andress

Stephen Andress joined Catena Media as Managing Editor of TheLines.com in March 2021. He began his career as a sports anchor and reporter in Eugene, OR before moving to Louisville, KY. There he covered the Kentucky Derby, Sugar Bowl and three consecutive Final Fours. Stephen later won an Emmy award while working for the Indianapolis Colts. More recently, he produced content for the PGA TOUR and multiple fantasy football and sports betting websites. Nothing has excited him more in his career than seeing legalized sports betting in the United States and the opportunity to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for it. His hobbies include kicking his high school friends' butts in fantasy football, Japanese whisky and Kentucky bourbon, golf outrights and supporting RIP Medical Debt, a charity which works to wipe out medical bills for those who have been unable to cover the cost of getting sick.

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