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Hating Duke should be a priority

Scott Jagow Mar 19, 2009

I’ve been so consumed with AIG and things of that nature, I forgot to fill out my NCAA tournament bracket, and now it’s too late. Even President Obama took time to fill one out. You can actually watch him making his picks at the White House.

I won’t criticize the President for spending time on this because first of all, he picked North Carolina to win the national championship, and that’s my Alma mater. I might take issue with some of his choices, but that ain’t one of them. Secondly, life can’t be all about hating Wall Street and government bailouts. There must be at least a little time devoted to despising your rival college.

I will now link you to a financial story about Duke and Carolina to provide evidence that I’m still blogging about the economy. The Wall Street Journal has a story today that says the Carolina-Duke rivalry may have saved college basketball.

By 2004, the TV ratings for the NCAA Championship were plummeting. College players were leaving school after their freshman year. Lebron James and others went straight to the NBA from high school. But that summer, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned down a $40 million offer to coach the LA Lakers. I remember being giddy. Hating Duke just wouldn’t be the same with Coach K. Plus, Carolina’s program was picking up again under Roy Williams after several disastrous years post-Dean Smith.

From the WSJ article:

When the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are good, the effect on TV audiences is stark. In 2005, when No. 2-ranked North Carolina beat No. 1 Illinois in the title game, viewership jumped 40% over the previous year’s matchup. “It’s the same effect you have in professional sports,” says Tom Ziangas, senior vice president of Nielsen Sports. “The Yankees are a big draw, the Cowboys, the Patriots in football. There are teams that just have drawing power.”

(I respect you, sir, but we’re going to wipe that smile off your face)

For this year’s tournament, despite the economy, ad sales are holding up, as pointed out on the Marketplace Morning Report. I think CBS could see strong viewership this year. An unemployed friend of mine says he welcomes a break from futilely sending out resumes. It’s a lovely distraction, kind of like a horned mascot wearing a Ty Lawson jersey.

(Yes, I know it’s a ram, not a Tar Heel. Long story)

If you don’t get the whole Carolina-Duke thing, I encourage you to watch HBO’s new documentary about it.

And if you pull for another school, best of luck to you.

As long as it’s not Duke.

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