March Madness: Past Reflections

By Tristan Miller-Lammert, Trending Writer

Basketball has been around for a long time. From Chuck’s to Jordan’s to Magic Johnson to Space Jam, basketball is a sport very firmly situated in American culture. Most people, when growing up, have played or at least watched basketball. Besides the Olympics, basketball is mainly played in the NBA and the annual March Madness tournament.

According to Daily Mail, “The first Thursday of the NCAA’s Men’s Division I Basketball Championships is something of a national holiday for American sports fans, when office productivity plummets.” March Madness started in Illinois as a tournament for high school boys’ teams in 1908. Long before television and college sports were around, these teams would draw huge crowds statewide. March Madness would quickly start becoming more than a fad around Illinois.

Eventually, the tournament was moved to the Assembly Hall on the University of Illinois campus. Soon, big games were going down and players were making history. Famously, Chicago Carver “beat Centralia on a last-second shot by a substitute named Anthony Smedley” as well as the win of University of Oregon over The Ohio State University in 1933 to finish off the first ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

March Madness, an essay written by Henry V. Porter, an assistant executive in the Illinois High School Association, gave the tournament its name. The term was supposed to describe the crazy excitement over the Illinois high school basketball tournaments, but rather it gained popularity in the news and media.

Years later in 1973, The Illinois High School Association began using the phrase ‘march madness’ in official press and merchandise. The brand and the experience were becoming a true staple of American sports. 1977 had Chicago sports’ writers bringing together the official history of the tournament in March Madness: The Story of High School Basketball in Illinois. This furthered branding about the heritage of the game and the tournament.

One of the best known basketball games of all time actually happened during March Madness in 1979. Indiana State vs. Michigan State gave both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson fame, added the excitement of rivalry to the game, and really put college basketball on the map.

It has only been an uphill game since then. ESPN was in its infancy then and began broadcasting the less watched opening rounds. This led to revenue skyrocketing for television and the NCAA. In 2013, revenues reached $1.15 Billion. Today, March Madness is watched by about 40 million Americans who will complete 70 million brackets, betting $2 Billion dollars throughout the competition. It is pure hype and love for basketball, one of the best times of the year for sports fans.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.

Contact Tristan at


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