Wonder Why Wednesday: March Madness

I know we are all busy making last minute changes to our NCAA tournament brackets today, so I will keep this short…


Yesterday I wrote that having a catchy name like March Madness helps the NCAA tournament’s popularity. That got me wondering about the origin story of that great name. Who came up with it? When was it first coined?  Let’s find out in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

Where Did The Name March Madness Come From?

The back story of March Madness involves many of the elements that makes the NCAA tournament so popular. David taking on Goliath, a hotly contested battle & ruling decided in the court.

According to Slate, the term March Madness dates back to 1939 when Henry V. Porter, wrote an article called “March Madness” to describe the Illinois High School basketball tournament.  He wrote:

A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.”

Three years later, he followed up with a poem, “Basketball Ides of March,” which read in part: “A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight/ The Madness of March is running.”

The phrase went mostly unnoticed until 1982, when CBS broadcaster (and ex-Chicago Daily News sportswriter) Brent Musburger used it during his network’s NCAA tournament coverage.

In 1989, the Illinois High School Association applied to trademark “March Madness.”

In 1996, GTE, an NCAA corporate partner, distributing a CD-ROM game bearing the March Madness title. This caused a feud between the NCAA and IHSA. The IHSA sued to stop the NCAA’s use of the term. The NCAA argued that it had a common-law trademark on the phrase and was thus allowed to license it at will.

After a lengthy battle in court, the two sides agreed to form the March Madness Athletic Association, a joint holding company. The IHSA owns the name on the high-school level, while the NCAA has the license to use the phrase for the college basketball tournament.


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