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Saturday Sports: NCAA Shocking Upset


Now time for sports.


SIMON: And overnight, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers are a household name. They pulled off the biggest upset ever in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. But how upset should fans be about the ways of the NCAA? Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. Are you really going to make me ruin the Golden Retriever moment by talking about the business of sports? Yes. You are, aren't you?

SIMON: Well, that's what we had planned - yes.


SIMON: That's what we do here in the news business.

BRYANT: What a great victory, though.

SIMON: Really was - I confess. I didn't even know the University of Maryland, Baltimore County had a basketball team. And they beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country, the Virginia Cavaliers, by 20 points - 74-54.

BRYANT: Smoked them - yeah.

SIMON: So would you call this shocking, staggering or stupefying?

BRYANT: Well, I think it's a great victory because as the field has gone to 64, you'd never had a 16 beat a No. 1. Eventually, one day, it was going to happen - that it was going to happen to Virginia and that they were going to - not just lose the game - it wasn't going to be some half-court buzzer beater. They got demolished. They got beat by 20 points. And they were down double digits most of the game. And so that was pretty significant.

I am not, however, going to say this was the greatest upset in the history of college basketball because I still think that you have some great, great teams that later in the tournament had no business losing. I'd say 1984. If you look at Houston and NC State - obviously that one. I think you look the next year - Georgetown, Villanova - also an incredible, incredible upset. This, however, was pretty significant and a lot of fun.

SIMON: Of course, the games are entertaining. But the real game is money. And did last night - well, let me put it this way. How much, Howard Bryant, will the non-profit NCAA make from this tournament?

BRYANT: Over a billion dollars. And for the first time, they are crossing the billion-dollar mark for a two-week tournament. And once again, as we know, the players don't make any money from this. And if you buy a kid a tuna sandwich, it's an NCAA violation for the most part. And so I think we need to recognize the enormous sums of money that's being made in this tournament. But I think more than that, I think we also have to pay attention to the promise that these kids are on campus to get an education. That has completely disappeared. All of those fallacies have to be sort of confronted.

And we need to look at this as the hardcore business that it is. In a lot of ways, Scott, it's not that much different from football in that we have this decision we want - we have to make as fans. Are you going to simply watch this for your entertainment and for your alma mater? Or are you going to watch it for recognizing it as the cold billion-dollar business that it is where the actual talent isn't compensated?

SIMON: Now, the NCAA says the money does go to student athletes in that it supports athletic programs at colleges and universities including, for that matter, sports like fencing or curling that don't sell television rights typically and scholarships and general enhancement of the university. Are you moved by that argument?

BRYANT: Not really, no, because you can't tell me that there's no room to compensate the player when Mike Krzyzewski at Duke makes over $10 million a year or John Calipari makes $8 million a year in salary.

And I think that it's much more an attitude of the public as well in that we need to concentrate on this attitude that the players are receiving a free education. It's not free. Their scholarships aren't even guaranteed. So they're not even receiving the value of a four-year scholarship. They're there for one year - renewable. So if they get hurt or something, sometimes the scholarship's not even guaranteed. And we need to look at them as something that - it's not being given to them. They earned this. They earned this. And they work very, very hard. And I think that it's difficult to look at sports unless we look at this as well.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much for being with us, my friend. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE TRUE LOVES' "FAMOUS LAST WORDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.