In 2014, CBS Sports started the CBS Sports Classic. I presume it was in response to the beginning (and success) of the Champions Classic broadcast by ESPN in 2011, but that’s neither here nor there. CBS Sports rounded up Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, and UCLA to play in a yearly set of doubleheaders where each team would play the other three in a rotating cycle at different locations around the country.
Part of the trick to the event — and with the Champions Classic as well — is that all four competitors are in a different conference. Kentucky is part of the SEC, North Carolina is in the ACC, Ohio State is a member of the Big Ten, and UCLA is in the Pac-12. However, as pointed out by Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander on the Eye on College Basketball Podcast this past Saturday night after the conclusion of the 2023 edition of the Classic, that’s not going to be the case next season.
UCLA will be joining the Big Ten effective July 1, 2024, which will make any UCLA/Ohio State games — like the one we just saw on Saturday night — a matchup within the league. Generally speaking, that kind of thing is frowned upon outside the bounds of conference play, and at the very least, it creates a situation where the CBS Sports Classic is providing a game that is readily available as part of Big Ten scheduling. That kind of ruins the point of the event: Giving fans a set of marquee matchups that they otherwise wouldn’t get on a yearly basis.
The CBS Sports Classic contract has been re-upped through 2026, so nothing about the event is going to change between now and then, it would seem. Given that the Bruins and the Buckeyes just played each other, the natural rotation of the event will keep the two teams apart for each of the next two editions of the Classic. So there’s no hurry to fix anything, and the 2026 version of the event can easily just be a repeat of 2024 to avoid being the same games as 2025.
However, down the road, CBS is going to need a new partner for the event. The luster of the Classic diminishes a little bit if you have to just keep flipping back and forth between two sets of games, and I’m sure that Kentucky and North Carolina would like to play each other eventually if they’re going to be in the event. Thus, either Ohio State or UCLA has to get bumped out of the rotation.
May I offer up Marquette men’s basketball as a potential replacement?
The Big East is not currently represented in the lineup, and the performance of the league makes it very clear that it is on par as a men’s basketball power with the SEC, the Big Ten, and the ACC, if not better than some of those leagues in any given year. The arrival of Shaka Smart in Milwaukee has rejuvenated the men’s basketball program, with Marquette winning the Big East regular season and tournament titles as well as earning the program’s best ever NCAA tournament seed in 2023 and then being voted as the favorite to win the Big East in the 2023-24 season.
If we’re being honest about it, Ohio State hasn’t been lighting the world on fire lately. Ignoring the incredibly weird 2020-21 season, the Buckeyes haven’t been a top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament since 2013. That was the last time that OSU won a conference title of any kind, regular season or tournament, and they suffered a losing season a year ago. UCLA has been up and down since the CBS Sports Classic was started. They’ve picked up three top 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament in that time and won a conference title in 2023. However, that was their first regular season or tournament title since 2014, they’ve also missed the NCAA tourney completely twice, and things aren’t looking real great for Mick Cronin’s squad this year at 5-4 so far.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the executives at CBS Sports to say “yeah, one of these guys gotta go” if the Classic is going to continue in 2027. They’ve also got some time built in to make sure that Shaka Smart continues his high flying trajectory at Marquette, and if he does, it seems reasonable that MU is at least in consideration to join the Classic’s lineup.
Heck, if CBS wanted to make it equitable, remove both Ohio State and UCLA from the Classic. No one is picking sides that way, and there’s a whole roster of Big 12 teams to pick from alongside adding a Big East team as well. North Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Marquette, rotating every three years, a different location around the country every year? Sounds like a huge win for everyone involved to me.
Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments section is there for, let me hear what you think.
Would you like to see Marquette added to the CBS Sports Classic rotation?
Yes, replace Ohio State
Yes, replace UCLA
Yes, and add a Big 12 team to replace both Big Ten teams
No, I don’t like fun