NEW YORK — ESPN, which lost the rights to broadcast games in the early rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, today announced it will televise a six-conference playoff that will determine three of the NCCA's automatic berths.
Six conference champions--from the Big South, the Mid-Eastern Athletic, the Northeast, the Patriot League, the Southland and the Southwestern Athletic--will be paired, and the winners will advance to the NCAA's 64-team draw.
The network will broadcast the three games on March 6. It will show 20 conference championships in all.
For 10 years, ESPN had covered the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, often cutting into one game to televise portions of other games from several sites. But a long-term $1-billion agreement with CBS Sports gave that network exclusive rights to all tournament games.
The newly created playoff was developed because 33 conferences will be eligible for the tournament next season, three more than the number of automatic bids extended by the NCAA.