The NCAA Men's Basketball tournament isn't called "March Madness" for nothing. It's one of the most prominent events in American sports, generating more than a billion dollars, legendary performances, and, of course, interesting facts. From its humble beginnings with teams competing for a second-rate championship, it's grown into an entire month of college basketball mania. The history of the tournament is rich with exciting anecdotes and all manner of March Madness trivia.
NCAA tournament history goes way beyond sheer numbers and rote lists of upsets. For example, did you know the now-basement dwelling National Invitation Tournament (NIT) was once actually a bigger deal than the Big Dance? Or that gambling brought down one of the greatest teams in college basketball history, and kept the tournament out of New York for six decades? Or that men getting snipped in time to watch the early rounds has become a popular trend? These March Madness facts might surprise you.
The Most Successful College Team Ever Was Ruined by Gambling
The only team in history to win both the NCAA and NIT in one year was the 1950 City College of New York (CCNY) Beavers, winning seven games in 17 days in March 1950. However, the school's joy over the victory was short-lived.
In 1951, New York district attorney Frank Hogan ensnared seven CCNY basketball players on charges related to match-fixing. The CCNY players were part of a point-shaving scandal that spread to six other schools. They had taken kickbacks to fix games - and rumors of mob involvement swirled. The NCAA dropped CCNY from Division I to Division III, and the school never regained its college basketball relevance.
Madison Square Garden Didn't Host An NCAA Tournament Game For 53 YearsPhoto: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com
CCNY, along with several other schools involved in the 1951 point-shaving scandal, often played at Madison Square Garden. The NCAA hosted regional championships at the Garden in 1951. However, between 1952 and 1961, the organization only staged first-round tournament games at the arena. After 1961, the Garden didn't host another NCAA tournament game until 2014 - a 53-year absence.
It's impossible to say for sure why the NCAA distanced itself from Madison Square Garden for so long, but some believe the stigma of the 1951 improprieties may have tainted the arena's reputation.
The NCAA Sells The Tournament CourtPhoto: Al Sermeno Photography / Shutterstock.com
Each year, the NCAA sells the tournament court following the championship game. It's available for anyone to purchase but, most of the time, the winning team acquires it. What teams opt to do with the floor following the purchase varies.
For example, the University of Florida won in 2006. The team purchased and repainted the floor, and laid it down in their home stadium. After winning the following year again, the Gators bought that floor as well and hung oversized squares of it on the wall of the team's practice facility. By contrast, when the Connecticut Huskies won in 2011, the organization purchased the Reliant Stadium floor, cut it into tiny pieces and sold it to collectors.
Racial Integration In The NCAA Tournament Was Agonizingly Slow
While there were several Black players in the early days of organized college basketball (notably future acting and singing star Paul Robeson), the NCAA took a long time to integrate fully. The first half of the century was a thicket of racism, exclusion, and "gentlemen's agreements" to avoid fielding Black players or playing against integrated teams.
By the 1950s, most northern teams had broken the color barrier, leading to a new generation of stars. Many southern states still refused to play against integrated teams, though, which cost Mississippi State three tournament appearances in 1959, 1961 and 1962. In 1963, Mississippi once again secured a tournament spot. This time, though, they didn't want to decline in protest: they were willing to play against integrated teams. They faced Loyola University, which had four Black starters. Mississippi lost, but many considered it a turning point for interracial competition.
Southern teams slowly started to integrate throughout the 1960s. It wasn't until 1972, however, that Mississippi State finally signed a Black player.