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A Piece About The College Basketball Invitational That Has An Opinion

We have an opinion

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the criticisms of CGB I've run across from time to time is that we don't have an opinion.  We don't take a stand!  Our takes are cold and lifeless!  Well, now I have an opinion and it is as follows:  After looking at a variety of metrics, balancing out factors on any number of spectrums, and doing 30 seconds of light googling of the word-phrase "CBI Oregon State lost money," I can safely say my scorching hot take is that Cal did the right thing in denying the CBI bid.

If you are a bit lost, let me back up the fact truck (BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP) and tailgate to dump sweet, sweet facts all over:

FACT #1:  The NCAA Tournament is a great place for a team like Cal to play

FACT #2:  Cal didn't make said Tournament

FACT #3:  If you don't make that Tournament, you can still make the National Invitational Tournament and be seen as potentially the 65th best team in the nation.  WE'RE #65!  WE'RE #65!

FACT #4:  Cal didn't make THAT Tournament.

FACT #5:  If you don't make the NIT, there is a subterranean layer of tournament called the CBI:  College Basketball Invitation.  Cal got invited to THIS tournament.

FACT #6:  Cal said No.


Those people watch Braveheart too much.  Others, may say "Dude, the fuck is a CBI?"  Those people probably also watch Braveheart too much.  It's not that good of a movie, people!

Either way, Cal was smart to ignore the CBI.  Here's why:

It's the mediocre bowl of College Basketball.  I wrote a big post the other month on how disastrous bowl games can be for teams and, in particular, how useless those mid-major bowl games are.  One hallmark of those games is how they force the schools to pony up money in the form of ticket sale guarantees to play.  Well, here the CBI is even more brazen, they basically do a straight ahead pay to play scheme:

Few respectable college basketball programs are interested in handing over $50,000 for a glorified practice, but to host a first-round game in the CBI, that’s the fee a team has to pay — on top of regular operating expenses. Reach the semifinals for best-of-three championship series? That’s another $75,000 a night.

So, you can potentially pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to win this thing.  And that is independent of any other costs (like the cost of turning on the lights or paying employees).  How many tickets are going to be sold when you are facing teams like Radford or Delaware State?

March 17 Rider at Loyola Chicago Chicago, Ill. 8 p.m.
March 18 Vermont at Hofstra Hempstead, N.Y. 7 p.m.
March 18 Stony Brook at Mercer Macon, Ga. 7 p.m.
March 18 Radford at Delaware State Dover, Del. 8 p.m.
March 18 Gardner-Webb at Colorado Boulder, Colo. 9 p.m.
March 18 Pepperdine at Seattle Seattle, Wash. TBD
March 18 Eastern Michigan at Louisiana Monroe Monroe, La. TBD
March 18 UC-Santa Barbara at Oral Roberts Tulsa, Okla. TBD

Only Colorado is a major team there.  Most of those teams look like the type of teams that Cal plays in November or December, not March.  Cal barely puts up good attendance numbers when we face those teams in the fall/winter when expectations are higher.  Our ticket numbers would be even lower now, which means Cal would probably lose significant money.

Now, let's put this in context. Men's Basketball is the 2nd most profitable sport at Cal (technically, the most profitable, but that is because $10 mil of football's profit was sunk into the debt repayment).  As I've harped on repeatedly, any athletics department is a free-market nightmare.  2 products subsidizing the financial hits of the other 27.  KARL MARX WOULD BE SO HAPPY!  We need those 2 sports to be as strong as possible.

Given how tough it is to run a financially smart department (and how Cal is one of the few schools out there seemingly interested in that), there is no reason to out and out seek financially bad options.  It's just dumb to potentially spend a few hundred thousand on this tournament.  Even when everything goes your way, it's still barely advantageous:

A year ago, the gamble made all the sense in the world for OSU. Then the Beavers kept winning. They began drawing bigger crowds and after a few home games, actually made a little money.

And when they beat UTEP — yeah, one of those NCAA Tournament teams — in the CBI championship series, they pumped some life into the program for the first time in a long time.

That is from 2010.  Even when OSU won, they barely made any money.  Plus, they needed a boost in the arm, because they had sucked for so long.  Here, Cal would not get any bigger and bigger crowds if they started winning, in my view.

Finally, the CBI is managed by something called the Gazelle Group. The Gazelle Group appears to be a bunch of agents who want to ginn up interest for their clients by creating events for them to be more involved.  Here is their representation page:


The Gazelle Group represents coaches and provides comprehensive services for our clients, including contract negotiation, sales and marketing, media and public relations and selection of financial advisors. Our clients benefit from relationships and programs that deliver maximum results as we develop opportunities for endorsements, public appearances, speaking engagements, autograph signings, etc. Gazelle is ideally positioned to develop partnerships that elevate our clients’ visibility, establish instant credibility and ensure success.

Here is their Who We Are:

The Gazelle Group creates, represents and consults across sports and entertainment events. Gazelle has the expertise and is committed to developing prioritized business plans that achieve its clients’ marketing and financial goals.

And finally, What We Do:

• sponsorship representation and sales
• coach representation
• advertising, promotions and publicity
• program production and advertising sales
• corporate endorsements
• personal appearances and motivational speaking
• merchandising and licensing
• TV rights, packaging, representation and sales
• conceptualization and development of individual events
and series
• creation and/or maintenance of Internet presence
• rights acquisition
• hospitality implementation and sales
• project and event implementation
• signage and electronic imaging

That is a significant amount of market bla bla bla that some PR intern somewhere copied and pasted.  But nowhere in there does it say anything relating to what Cal really needs, which is:

1.  An opportunity to make their team better

2.  Stronger financial footing

To do that, Cal needs to avoid losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and time away from recruiting players to improve this young team.   Cal was right to turn down the CBI.  GO BEARS!