The Story Behind March Madness
The NCAA college basketball tournament is almost here. But how did the term “March Madness” come about? (Read On). The first reference applied to basketball was the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). In March of 1908, a boy’s high school basketball tournament was organized with only eight teams competing. The IHSA tournament became very popular over the next two decades, growing to over 900 schools participating. In 1939, Henry Porter published an article entitled “March Madness” in the IHSA’s magazine, Illinois Interscholastic where he describes the fan frenzy for the tournament.
Invention of Basketball
James Naismith, while teaching at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) was given 14 days to devise a game which can be played indoors, not take up too much room, be fair for all players and not be too rough – as a means to keep the track team in shape over the winter. He devised 13 rules to the game which used a soccer ball, had nine players per side and the only way to advance the ball was by passing, dribbling was not allowed. In 1891, he attached two peach baskets on the gallery railing at each end of the gymnasium and “basket ball” was born.
Naismith went on to organize the first college tournament in 1937 as a means to popularize the sport. The first reference to “March Madness for the NCAA Tournament was in 1958 but didnt become popular until announcer, Brent Musburger referenced “March Madness”. He is quoted as saying “The first time I saw the term ‘March Madness,’ it was in print, an ad for a car dealer. It was referring to the Illinois high school basketball tournament. When CBS got the rights to the NCAA tournament in 1982, it was something that seemed appropriate to say.”
The IHSA disputed the right for the NCAA to use the term. In 1996, they decided to cut a deal with one another. In early 2000 (after years of negotiation), they both agreed to transfer all rights to March Madness to a separate company called “MMAA.” In turn, each association received a license to use the “March Madness” term in relation to their basketball tournament. Additionally, they would split the profits of licensing the term to other companies or products.