Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27,1939: The Birth of March Madness

On March 27, 1939, March Madness was born when the University of Oregon won the National Title by beating Ohio State 46-33 in the inaugural NCAA basketball tournament. A field of eight teams were invited to the tournament, Texas, Villanova, Brown, Utah State, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest, all joined Oregon and Ohio State in the inaugural tourney. Through time the tournament grew to a field of 64 and has turned into one of the most watched sporting events in America.

The coach of Ohio State, Harold Olsen came up with the idea to hold the tourney to compete with the more prestigious NIT. If he only knew what it has become he might be stunned. The tournament was held on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They had to give tickets away throughout the tournament just to have warm bodies in the seats. With the tournament in its infancy nobody really cared about it, in fact they lost $2,600 by the time it was all said and done. It's a far cry from the money the tournament generates today. Eight teams competed for the title until 1951, when they expanded the field to 16 teams. Throughout the years the NCAA expanded the tournament multiple times and it eventually became a field of 64 that we all watch today.

Since the inception of the tournament in 1939 the development of the game has come a long way. Ohio State's, Jimmy Hull took home the first Most Outstanding Player award as he led his team to the title game. The list of players that have taken home that award alone helps define how great the tournament really is, we have names like; Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Magic Johnson on the list that was started by Jimmy Hull. You can view the complete list here:

With one little idea the tournament was born. It really is amazing to think that once upon a time someone had to give tickets away just hoping people would show up to watch the NCAA Title game. Today thousands of fans will fight for the chance to land a ticket to watch the next Champions cut down the net. After losing $2,600 the first time around, the tournament has become something that generates billions of dollars and it all started with Oregon taking down Ohio State in 1939.

1 comment:

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