All the excitement over March Madness somehow seems, well, a little dirty. Richmond gets two teams into the tournament — University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University — but the experts at CBS and ESPN spend the latter part of Sunday night bashing VCU's invite. (Equally unimpressive Virginia Tech was snubbed: outrageous!)

Meanwhile, the National Football League heads toward a lockout while VCU considers adding football and this city's two indoor teams, the Richmond Revolution and Richmond Raiders, start their seasons. The Raiders, a team chock full of former Hokies, stomped the Harrisburg Stampede in an exhibition Friday, 52-7.

Here's the question: Does impending doom in the NFL bode well for local football? Maybe. If the NFL cancels part or all of the 2011-'12 season, fans suffering from withdrawal may flock to collegiate football. Rob Baade, a sports economist at Lake Forest College just outside of Chicago, says there likely will be a bump in college game attendance and TV viewership, but probably not that much.

“A positive effect for collegiate football? I don't expect that to happen in any appreciable way,” Baade says, adding that it may also cloud VCU's decision to start a team. “It would be very difficult for me to say that, yeah, this is a great idea to start a collegiate football program at this point.”

As for whether to cede City Stadium to VCU, presumably to start a football program, instead of to retail developers: not a good move in terms of the economy, Baade says. (Also see “The City Stadium Dilemma” at

Early picks in the tournament: VCU over University of Southern California (Wednesday, 9 p.m.) thanks to rangy defense and streaky 3-point shooting, then overtime loss to Georgetown. The Spiders by 10 over Vanderbilt on Thursday.


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