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Early Days Of March Madness

Mar 16, 2008
John was working in Springfield, Massachusetts at a YMCA training to become an administrator of the YMCA's program. His challenge was to come up with a game for a gym class that would be physically demanding and could be done inside during the harsh winter months. His solution was to have two teams with 9 players on each team, use a soccer ball and use peach baskets. Basketball was born.

When John Naismith was asked what the team members and their uniforms looked like for the first games of his newly invented basketball, he said the players were young men 23 to 30 year olds with mustaches who wore long trousers and quarter sleeve jerseys with elk sole shoes and knew absolutely nothing about the game.

17 years later, what began as a small invitational in 1908 for high school boys basketball teams sponsored by the Illinois High School Association would grow to a statewide competition with over 900 schools by the late 1930s. In 1939 Henry V. Porter coined this tournament March Madness.

In the same year, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) held its first tournament with 8 teams: Texas, Oklahoma, Villanova, Brown, Wake Forest, Oregon and Ohio State in Patten Gym on the North western University in Evanston, Illinois.

As a sort of crowd warmer before the first NCAA Championship Game was played between Oregon and Ohio State, the fans were treated to a game from the old days. Two twelve man teams from the North Western
Intramurals all star team tried to put a ball into a peach basket placed at both ends of the court using the rules and conditions of the time when John N. invented basketball in 1891.

This Championship game would be the only NCAA final game John Naismith would get to see as eight months later he would die at the age of 78.

The trophy for the game was placed on a table courtside so all could see it while the game was played. Oregons team beat Ohio State in a close game but not before their captain Bobby Anst would charge after a loose ball unable to stop, knocking the trophy off the table and breaking it into two pieces. During the awards ceremony the commissioner tried to hand it to Oregon with the piece balancing on top but it fell off and they received it in two pieces.

In 1982 CBS Sports Commentator Brent Musburger quoted the NCAA tournament March Madness which would set off a great legal battle between Illinois High School
Association and NCAA. It would later be resolved that both associations would have shared rights to the term.

Today the NCAA Tournaments consists of 65 Mens Teams and the Womens NCAA Tournament consists of 64 Womens teams. The games are played for three weeks usually starting the third Thursday of March and continuing through the first week of April.

Opening rounds for the Mens tournament consists between the 65 and 64th teams. Women do not have these opening rounds since they have only 64 teams. In both Mens and Womens tournaments the first two days will play the 65 teams with winners bringing the teams count to 32. The next two days games will bring the count to the Sweet Sixteen. After which everyone will get a four day break until the next Thursday where the 16 teams will play down to get the Final Four teams in each tournament.

The Mens Final Four teams will play on the Saturday in April and the Womens Final Four will be played on Sunday.The Championship games will be on Monday.

After 117 years since John Naismith invented the game of Basketball, a phenomenon of millions of fans and players affectionately call this time of year March Madness, and with good reason. The insanity of no second chances, no consolations, you lose and it is all over faces the Cinderella teams, the wanna bes and shoe in teams all start with one equal chance to be the National Champions of college Basketball.

It is the only kind of Madness you can get in March and we love it!
About the Author
Kathy Giegel has successfully coached basketball for over 25 years and loves every minute of it! She creates programs for all ages to anyone who wants to learn about basketball. Check out her newest creations at
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