Sportswriters Barry Wilner and Ken Rappoport tell how March Madness grew from an eight-team tournament in a rickety Illinois gym to a $10-billion business.
What we now call March Madness began as an eight-team tournament in 1939 in a rickety Illinois gymnasium. The University of Oregon won a championship that had an audience of 5,500 and lost $2,531 – half the tickets were given away. By 1973, the first year the tournament was televised, 39 million viewers tuned in to watch UCLA pound Memphis State. Today, the tournament is a 68-team behemoth, with every match-up covered by four television networks. The NCAA collected a staggering $10.8 billion in its most recent broadcast deal; more than 95 percent of the NCAA’s revenue comes from March Madness contracts.
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