TEAMS: 8 AVG. ATTENDANCE: 10,782
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:Limited local coverage but no national contract
The Buzz: Itseemed like a bad omen for the tournament's future when Oregon guard Bobby Anetbroke the championship trophy during the inaugural title game, crashing into atable while chasing a loose ball. The Ducks beat Ohio State (right) 46--33 forthe title at Northwestern's Patten Gym, but the tournament was a money-loser,finishing $2,531 in the red, and the National Association of BasketballCoaches, which sponsored the event, turned it over to the NCAA. The financesimproved the next year when Indiana beat Kansas 60--42 in the title game; eachfinalist took home a whopping $750. But the tournament was still operating inthe shadow of the more glamorous NIT. Indeed, in 1944 Utah declined an NCAA bidin order to go to the NIT, where the Utes lost in the first round. But after acar accident forced Arkansas to withdraw from the NCAA tournament, Utah wasnamed a last-second replacement and won the NCAA title as a consolationprize.
TEAMS: 8, expanded to 16 in '51, then between 22 and 25 from '53 on
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:A national syndicator pays $7,500 to televise the 1954 title game
The Buzz: Thedecade began with a couple of shockers. City College of New York is believed tohave first inspired the term Cinderella from sportswriters, as the 17--5Beavers surprised everyone in 1950 by becoming the first--and only--team to winboth the NIT and the NCAA championships. The following year several CCNYplayers were arrested for point shaving, part of a major gambling scandalinvolving seven schools that gave the tournament, and the sport, a black eye.But it was also during the '50s that the tournament began to resemble the onewe know today. In '52 the four semifinalists met in Seattle, the first time the"final four" had gathered in one city for the semifinals and titlegame, and in '56 the field was first divided into four geographic regions. Bythe end of the decade the tournament had largely emerged from the embarrassmentof the point-shaving scandal, helped by Bill Russell (left), K.C. Jones and therest of the San Francisco Dons, who won consecutive titles in '55 and '56, andby North Carolina's triple-OT win over Kansas in '57, the first bitter loss ofmany for the dominating Jayhawks center--Wilt Chamberlain.
TEAMS: Fluctuated between 22 and 25 AVG. ATTENDANCE: 11,093
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:Nationally syndicated Sports Network signs six-year, $140,000 contract in1963
The Buzz: Thechampionship game, then played on Saturday afternoon after Friday's semifinals,was broadcast on network television for the first time in 1962, but it wasn't asign of booming popularity. ABC taped Cincinnati's 71--59 victory over OhioState and aired it later that day, condensed into a 90-minute package on WideWorld of Sports. The tournament also was not immune to the controversies of thecivil rights era. In 1963 Mississippi State accepted an invitation to the NCAAsdespite pressure from the state's segregationist governor, Ross Barnett, whodidn't want the team to play against black players. After an opening-round bye,the Bulldogs lost to Loyola (Ill.), which had four black starters andeventually won the title. Three years later, in a watershed game, TexasWestern, with five black starters, upset all-white Kentucky for the nationalchampionship. Other than that, the decade could be summed up in fourletters--U-C-L-A--with Lew Alcindor (left) a dominant force as part of aBruins' run of 10 titles in 12 years.
TEAMS: 25, then 32 in '75, 40 in '79 AVG. ATTENDANCE: 11,125
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:NBC pushes the NCAA's TV revenue over the million dollar mark, to $1,165,755 in1973
The Buzz: In '75conferences were allowed to send more than one team to the tournament for thefirst time, prompted largely by an epic '74 battle between 25--1 N.C. State and23--4 Maryland for the ACC title--and the league's only tournament bid. TheWolfpack, led by David Thompson, won 103--100 in overtime, and the Terps, whowould be a No. 1 seed today, stayed home. N.C. State went on to end UCLA's runof seven straight titles, and the tournament would never again be dominated byone school. A new era was beginning, the television era, sparked by the '79title game (right) between Michigan State, led by Magic Johnson, and IndianaState, with Larry Bird. The game remains the highest-rated tournament gameever.
TEAMS: 48 in 1980, then 52 in '83, 53 in '84 and 64 in '85
AVG. ATTENDANCE:15,155 SIGNATURE TV DEAL: CBS signs three-year deal for $48 million in '82
The Buzz: March 14and 15, 1981, is the weekend that the tournament truly morphed into MarchMadness. In 24 hours, No. 1--ranked DePaul, No. 2 Oregon State and No. 3Arizona State all suffered second-round upsets, and in the best finish of all,Arkansas guard U.S. Reed threw in a 49-foot buzzer beater to beat defendingchampion Louisville. The decade had plenty of other highlights, including thetwo biggest championship-game shockers in tournament history--the 1983 win byNorth Carolina State (right) over Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma crew andVillanova's upset of Patrick Ewing--led Georgetown in 1985--but thatsecond-round weekend in '81 is the day the country got this message: You'dbetter watch, because anything is possible.
TEAMS: 64 AVG. ATTENDANCE: 18,447
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:CBS pays $1 billion to extend TV rights for seven years, starting in 1991
The Buzz: Underthe new television contract, in 1991, every game of the tournament wastelevised live for the first time, by CBS, and a year later the audience wasthrilled by a buzzer-beating miracle from Duke's Christian Laettner (right)that stunned Kentucky 104--103 in OT in the East Regional final. The decade hadno shortage of compelling teams and players to follow, as teams like UNLV andMichigan spiced things up with their brashness. The Runnin' Rebels were exactlythat, a swift, high-scoring team on the court with a coach, Jerry Tarkanian,who always seemed to be one step ahead of the NCAA posse off it. Led byforwards Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon, UNLV blew through the 1990tournament, capping it off by drubbing Duke 103--73 in the final. Two yearslater came the Fab Five, the quintet of freshmen, including forward ChrisWebber and guard Jalen Rose, who took Michigan to the final in each of itsfirst two seasons. The young Wolverines were among the sport's fashion pioneersas well, wearing long, baggy shorts, black socks and black shoes, which becamethe standard look. But unlike UNLV, they never quite finished their mission,losing both title games, with the '93 loss to North Carolina marked by Webber'sinfamous timeout call.
TEAMS: 64, then 65 in 2001 AVG. ATTENDANCE: 19,462
SIGNATURE TV DEAL:CBS pays $6 billion in 2003 to cover TV, radio and--in a sign of the times--Webrights for 11 years
The Buzz: Thetournament goes to a "pod" system in 2002, allowing the top four seedsin each region to play their first two games as close to home as possible. Notthat the general public notices--everyone from gamblers to grandmothers is toobusy filling out his or her brackets as part of the booming office-poolphenomenon, which adds a new level of obsessive interest to the tournament. Onthe court, freshman forward Carmelo Anthony (right) leads Syracuse to the '03title in his only college season, and North Carolina wins the '05 championshipwith four underclassmen who then bolt early for the NBA. Given the new NBA ruleinstituted for the '06--07 season barring players from entering the draft untila year after their high school class graduates, it won't be surprising to seemore Melo-like one-and-done championship runs.
Elements of Style
DePaul's bespectacled George Mikan is the game's first iconic big man.
Clyde Lovellette of Kansas shines in satiny shorts later dubbed "MarilynMonroes."
Two relics from Marches past: the belt buckle and underhanded free throw.
Nothing up their sleeves: Jerry Sloan and the Evansville Aces win the CollegeDivision title.
Puma becomes a player in a market long controlled by Converse.
Michigan's Rickey Green stands out amid the to and 'Fro of the '70s.
Marquette wears an untucked design by forward Bo Ellis that today would earn aT.
Nike breaks the color barrier, introducing schools to shoes of many shades.
UNLV center David Butler uses his head to show off his team spirit.
Short on the sides and long on the top, the fade of Duke's Grant Hill is almosta reverse mullet.
Michigan's Fab Five take shorts to an unprecedented length--and start atrend.
Lawrence Moten brings the D.C. look to Syracuse with his calf-high socks.
Georgetown makes a political and fashion statement with kente cloth trim.
The mohawk of Kansas State's Ryan Patzwald channels Chad Johnson.
The future? Nike unveils form-fitting jerseys with longer and baggiershorts.