- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Jim Harrick was overpowered by the maelstrom of March last Sunday.
The Georgia coach came out against capitalism after the Bulldogs lost to the Southern Illinois Salukis in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Harrick measured the decibel level of the cash-carrying patrons stuffed inside the United Center and concluded, much to his dismay, that many had exercised their right to drive by car from Carbondale to Chicago.
As Harrick figured it, that was the difference in the two-point game.
"I hope it's not the money that drives it, but it appears that it is," Harrick said of where the teams were placed.
It is funny Harrick should mention money before the NCAA begins its 11-year, $6-billion arrangement with CBS in September.
The NCAA tournament is the crown jewel of the highly capitalistic deal, and it benefits all the suits, Harrick included.
Harrick, of course, has not been an opponent of capitalism in the past. If anything, he has recognized its quality-of-life powers. He has been around the coaching block, and mostly, he has gone where the financial numbers best fit his personal needs. He has not even been required to sit out a season, as student-athletes are required to do if they change schools.
Harrick is not necessarily in Athens, Ga., because of its mild climate, slower pace and proximity to Atlanta. He is there because Georgia is a large university that can afford to compete in the SEC. It has a fat athletic budget, it has the inside position on the top high school athletes in the state and it has impeccable facilities.
If it didn't have these amenities, Georgia might be in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and then Harrick would have the same concerns and complaints as Lefty Driesell and Georgia State. Harrick already knows how life is in the mid-major conferences. He was at Rhode Island back in the day and left there as soon as the Rams made some postseason noise.
So Harrick probably is not really against capitalism. He probably is against losing by two points in the second round of the NCAA tournament, especially after his team held a 19-point lead on the Salukis at one point in the first half.
His is one of the misguided voices around the fan-friendly format implemented by the NCAA tournament committee this season to correct the glut of empty seats in early-round games in past seasons.
It was a much-needed move, even if it amounted to homecourt advantage in some cases. The change undoubtedly greased the Sweet 16 path of Maryland, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Texas.
The objection to Maryland being on Fun Street, made by Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, was as weak as the performance of the Badgers. Rule No.1 after losing by 30 points: Compliment your opponent and leave the what-ifs out of it.
For the Terps, the venue was the prize that went with their 26-4 record and No.1 seed going into the tournament. Would Ryan have felt better if Duke had been dispatched to Washington and Maryland to Greenville, S.C.?
Crying no fair, alas, is an American pastime. No matter what the tournament committee does with its 65-team field, it is impossible to find unanimity among the suits. One school is bound to have it better than another school, although, to look at it another way, inequities help sell the tournament.
Siena hardly has the basketball resources of Maryland. Is that good, bad? Or is a first-round meeting between a have and have-not one of the intriguing elements of the tournament?
Texas found the surroundings in Dallas to be awfully helpful against Mississippi State.
To which Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said: "Let's make sure everybody has the same level playing field."
Texas coach Rick Barnes, meanwhile, recalled a nearly empty arena in his team's first-round loss to Temple in New Orleans last season. Given the choices, he said he would rather be in a hostile arena than an indifferent one.
A full house, after all, contributes to the scene, plus to NCAA coffers. In the end, everyone wins: CBS, the NCAA, the players, fans and even the whiners in suits.


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