Former NCAA exec Shaheen to talk tourney on ESPN

Jim o'Connell, AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- ESPN is going to offer viewers a chance to hear about what really goes on in the selection committee meeting room as the unveiling of the bracket nears.

Greg Shaheen, the man who was in charge of the NCAA tournament from 2001-13, will appear on all of the cable network's outlets starting Friday with the mission of letting people know the twists and turns of the days leading up to Selection Sunday.

"When I was approached about this, I did pause for a minute," Shaheen said Tuesday night. "The more I thought about it, the more I thought of the opportunity to continue giving insight of the process, the dynamics of the room and I hope this elicits discussion and explain what they are doing as part of the process. It won't have to do as much with the debate of specific teams. That's great. But there is more in the process than just that debate."

Shaheen resigned from his position after last year's Final Four. Under his leadership, the tournament expanded from 65 to 68 teams, including the First Four "play in" games, and helped secure a $10.8 billion TV contract over 14 years.

ESPN contacted Shaheen about college basketball's version of the 10-day contract last month and when he agreed, it was up to the network to decide where he would be best utilized.

"He has such great insight into not just the tournament but what is going on in the building, in the room. He has seen so much and he can give us a sense of context, a sense of the time and space of the moment," said Mark Gross, a senior vice president and executive producer at ESPN and the man who hired Shaheen.

"We will use Greg all around on our shows, games and halftimes. As we get closer to the selection show, there will be a short window for the fans where they will hear explanations they haven't before."

Shaheen gets credit for opening the selection process right from the start of his 12-year reign.

"In 2001, I proposed a mock selection just to try it. Finally in 2006, the committee approved it," he said. "We gave it a shot with members of the media and it's continued since then. It has helped to dispel the things people believe about the process that aren't true."

Shaheen once described himself as the "therapist of March Madness." As his name is mentioned with some jobs in and around college basketball now, Shaheen still believes in that nickname. His couch will now be on an ESPN set.

When asked if he would get involved in making lists about his years running the tournament for the graphics people to post, such as the five best chairmen, the five messiest eaters of the famed ice cream brought to the selection room or the five toughest guys to get to make up their minds, Shaheen, as he always does, took an extra few seconds to answer.

"I would like to make the list of the five worst ever out of Digger's 145-team fields," he said, referring to Digger Phelps, the former Notre Dame coach he will probably be sharing a set with this week.


ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.