March Madness Voices: My Selection Sunday By: Bruce Rasmussen

To honor the excitement and history that is the NCAA tournament, will be publishing first-person accounts from different people who have March Madness experiences to share. These March Madness Voices represent the people behind what makes the NCAA tournament one of the most thrilling sporting events of the year. Check back at to read more stories that will be published throughout March.

Bruce Rasmussen is the athletic director for Creighton University and has served as a member of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee for the past four years. He is currently the 2016-17 vice chair and the upcoming 2017-18 chairman of the committee. Below he describes his experiences on the committee and gives college basketball fans an inside look to what Selection Sunday is like for a committee member.

The day is marked on my calendar in advance. I know it’s coming. I’ve watched multiple hours of games since mid-November in preparation for this day.

Selection Sunday.

It’s a grueling and long week. We, the members of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, are stuck in a conference room in a hotel in New York City. As the week goes by, we begin to miss the fresh air and sunlight. We are constantly busy. Some of us get up early and go to Central Park before the day begins. We take some breaks to watch some games, too. But from 8 in the morning until the clock strikes midnight, it’s all about the task at hand.

On Sunday itself, there are six or seven conference tournaments to be played, which often adds to the uncertainty of the day. Many conference tournaments end late on Saturday, so Sunday is a day to make certain we have selected the best 36 teams for at-large spots in the NCAA tournament (32 others are automatic qualifiers by winning their conference tournaments).

It’s very intense, especially because of the compressed time frame. To put it in perspective, I was a lot more relaxed when I coached and we were down by two with 10 seconds left. There’s often such a microscopic difference between teams. You’re just trying to do it right so you have the teams in the right order. It’s kind of like a court case — you make the argument for one and you make the argument for the other. There’s always the pressure of making sure you fully discuss and vet the teams.

It’s been a long time since I was in college, but maybe I would compare it to taking the GRE? You have to answer 100 questions in two hours and you think it will take you four hours.

The committee agonizes over every decision, from Team 1 to Team 68. We want to get it right because every decision we make affects not only the team involved, but has waterfall effects on who they will play and where they will play. Several years ago, for example, we had to develop 12 brackets based upon different possible outcomes of the conference tournament championships taking place on Sunday.

The committee has intense discussions not only concerning the 68 teams that are selected, but on many others who do not quite make it. This is a very critical time for me. I always appreciate the times as a committee when we can talk out issues, "test" them, "experiment" with them, much like going into the gym and working on something in practice before it’s game time. I appreciate the thinking out loud, discovering what I really believe in the process of talking with other committee members. We can talk in this environment like we can’t talk with others. It helps me form opinions that aren’t the thoughts of others but are my true thoughts.

I often find that, for me, my first impression is usually not my best thought. My first impression is usually someone else's, something I’ve already heard, a "conventional" thought. It’s only by sticking to the question, being patient, trying it out in the "laboratory" of discussion with a trusted group of friends, that I can arrive at the "better" thoughts. I can think about my thoughts, make mistakes and recognize them, make false starts and correct them, outlast my first impulses and defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing.

This is our process, and only after experiencing the process in its entirety do I understand and appreciate the extremely difficult decisions made by the committee.

Sunday is “Championship Day” for the committee, and while it is stressful, there also is a sense of fulfillment. We have a great team that has made an unbelievable commitment — as volunteers — to do our best. A great team is a mysterious thing, hard to create, much less duplicate. People talk about teamwork all the time: it's an overused term. Experts try to explain and define it, but few really understand it.

You can't always tell what makes a good team, but you know one when you see it because the team members like each other. They get along well, sit around a table laughing and, even after they're done, linger to enjoy each other's company. That’s how I would describe the men’s basketball committee.

For many of us, we have so many entities to manage — our athletic teams, our staff, our supporters, our corporate sponsors, our communities, etc. — that we don’t get to experience the close, mystical relationship of a team all the time. The men’s basketball committee provides that for us. Selection Sunday is like an athletic event for us, and I am so exhausted after the week.

While I do watch the Selection Show, my mind is still on the process and the worry that we may have made mistakes that dramatically affect a team, a program, a university, a community and a fan base.

When it’s all said and done I do get to enjoy the whole tournament. The men’s basketball tournament is the best sporting event in the world. And you don’t just witness a game. You take part in it, both victories and defeats. We won. We lost. The spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete and coach—there is a oneness that affects people in ways they are incapable of understanding or explaining. Sport is about sharing life’s victories and defeats together— and learning how to be together, to function as a team together. There are many lessons we can learn from athletics events that would help us in our families, our businesses and our communities.

Here’s to another great March!

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