For perhaps the first time in more than five years, the NCAA Tournament bracket was leaked before CBS broadcasters had a chance to unveil it.
About halfway through the network’s two-hour Selection Sunday show, a filled-in bracket started popping up on Twitter. Skeptics questioning its validity were quickly silenced when each of matchups revealed on TV aligned with the leaked version.
Several teams in the 68-team tourney field even learned of their inclusion via the hack.
Sunday evening, long after the show had ended but with billion-dollar broadcast rights compromised, the NCAA issued this statement via spokesman David Worlock:
“We go to great lengths to prevent the tournament field from being revealed early and the NCAA took its usual measures to protect this from happening. Unfortunately, and regretably, the bracket was revealed prior to our broadcast partners having the opportunity to finish unveiling it. We take this matter seriously and we are looking into it.”
Division I men’s basketball chairman Joe Castiglione, the athletic director at Oklahoma, called the leak surprising.
“We’re still looking into the matter,” he said on a Sunday night conference call. “We take it seriously. We hope to zero in on how it occurred.”
CBS had no comment.
Several Twitter users, including a couple with apparent Kansas City-area sports allegiances, posted the bracket at about the same time during the selection show. One such user, contacted by The Star, declined to be interviewed or say on the record how the bracket had been obtained.
By Sunday night, the user had either removed his Twitter account (the handle of which had a vulgar name, or it would’ve been included in this story), or had it disabled by the global social-media company. By then, many on Twitter were calling that person a hero.
Viewers had already taken to skewering the CBS selection show for being too long and clumsy. Charles Barkley was in studio as an analyst, and several of his comments were indicative of someone whose knowledge of college basketball in 2016 was sketchy at best.
At least one coach seemed to have no quarrel with the leak. Notre Dame’s Mike Brey told the Associated Press that he got a text from his son, Kyle, saying his team was to play the winner of a Michigan-Tulsa play-in game.
“I thought he was messing with me,” Brey said. “So I just deleted it. Fifteen minutes later we show up, and then I found out we had a little leakage going on. Nothing’s secure, huh?”
Yahoo Sports reported Sunday that it’s believed to be the first time since 2010 that an NCAA Tournament bracket was leaked, saying, in “2010, a user on a Maryland-related message board revealed most of the key details such as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and which bubble teams were in and out before the selection show even started.”
Likewise, the lingering memory of this Selection Sunday will be the bracket gaffe, the gravity of which was explained by Worlock during a 2014 interview with Yahoo.
“Obviously our broadcast partners have made a major investment, and part of that is the exclusivity to unveiling the bracket,” Worlock was quoted as saying. “If it were to leak on another network or online, that would be a major mistake on our part. We want to do whatever we can to avoid that. That’s why we stress it in the room and try to keep others out of the room.”