CBS' contract to carry the NCAA Tournament runs through 2013, but the NCAA can opt out after this year's event, which has led to widespread speculation about its near future.
That includes both the possibilities of the NCAA expanding the field to 96 teams and of accepting other offers to televise it, presumably including ESPN.
The look of the 2011 tournament likely won't take shape until summer, but CBS Sports president Sean McManus said yesterday the network intends to carry the event "as long as we can.''
"We have a history at CBS of keeping the events we want to keep on our network,'' he said.
"We've always done a good job of renewing rights. I would like to think that that would follow through the NCAA Tournament also.''
(A partnership with another outlet, such as Turner, could help CBS share costs.)
Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's senior vice present for basketball and business strategies, said, "There is nothing that's a done deal or decided at this point. We're full steam ahead with our agreement with CBS through 2013.''
But he acknowledged the NCAA has been discussing options with university presidents for months.
The tournament is an important moneymaker, and an expanded field would make it a more valuable TV property.
"It's important to point out that 90-plus percent of the revenue for the Association comes from 17 days in March and early April,'' Shaheen said, "and 96 percent of the revenue the Association makes flows through to our membership. So they have a lot at stake here and we are mindful of that every day.''