Happy 40th, Selection Sunday!
It took 10 minutes for me to scrape the icebergs off my car this morning in Kansas City. I arrived from Russell barely in time; it began sleeting at Junction City, and by time I hit Lawrence, the bridge over the Kansas River on the Tunrpike was slushy. A state trooper was on the left shoulder, and two vehicles were involved in an accident on the right.
It got worse after the toll plaza near Bonner Springs. There is a series of curves between the plaza and Kansas Highway 7, and if you take it too fast in bad weather, it will lead to trouble.
Indeed, numerous cars had slid off the Turnpike, and a couple hit the barrier median (the Turnpike has a concrete barrier for its entire length from the Oklahoma state line to KCK; engineers in the mid-1950s saved money by not including the standard 11-meter (~25 foot) grassy median). I was smart enough to slow down.
By time I checked into my hotel at 16:00, the sleet was coming down harder. An hour later, the snow began, and by morning, my white Buick mostly disappeared.
If it would have been -10 C (12 F) when the snow started, it would have been light and fluffy. Instead, with the temperature at -2 to -3 (27-30), it made the snow ice-crusted.
I have always carried a scraper/brush combination when driving in the winter. Today proved why. Combined with starting the engine and cranking up the defoggers to 32 (90), it made the removal easier.
I had an appointment today in KC, one I put off two weeks ago. That’s the only reason I was here. Believe me, if I didn’t have to be here, I would be in my basement in Russell.
Forty years ago this evening, CBS made sports history with a half-hour special announcing the pairings for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, colloquially known as March Madness.
CBS acquired the rights to the NCAA tournament in the summer of 1981 following a 13-season run on NBC.
NCAA head Walter Byers and his closest lieutenants may have had reservations about moving to Black Rock, since the network also had the NBA, but soon Byers and everyone else at NCAA headquarters in Overland Park would be over the moon.
CBS promised the NCAA much more coverage of the early rounds. NBC provided spotty coverage of the rounds prior to the Elite Eight (reginonal finals), and it wasn’t until the late 1970s it showed those four games live to all of the nation. At first, all four regional finals were played on the same day at the same time; then it was two Saturday and two Sunday, regionally televised.
CBS televised its first college basketball game the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1981, then made its big splash the evening of Sunday, 7 March 1982.
At 6:00 ET/5:00 CT, Brent Musburger sat at his familiar desk at CBS Sports Control in New York with Billy Packer, NBC’s top analyst from 1975-81, discussing what would happen in a few minutes when they linked up with Gary Bender at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Kansas City (yes, THAT Hyatt Regency, the one where 114 were killed eight months earlier when a walkway collapsed on participants in a dance contest).
Joining Bender, who called the 1981 NBA championship series (Celtics-Rockets) for CBS and was tapped as the top play-by-play man for the NCAA was Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.
Bender and Gavitt gave a thorough explanation of the principles of constructing the bracket. Gavitt explained the committee always did its best to keep teams in their “natural” geographic regions, but inevitably some teams had to be shifted, such as Georgetown, led by freshman Patrick Ewing, to the West as the No. 1 seed.
The first pairing announced by Bender was Ohio State vs. James Madison at Charlotte in the East regional, with the winner to face top seed and top-ranked North Carolina. (for the record, the Dukes defeated the Buckeyes
FYI, the bracket was 48 teams in 1982. The top four seeds in each regional had byes to the second round. In 1985, byes were eliminated with the expansion to 64.
Another innovation by CBS was live satellite hookups at various schools to gauge their reaction to the brackets.
Pat O’Brien was stationed with Fresno State, where he was joined by the team and hundreds of fans outside Selland Arena. Jim Kelly was in Lexington, where he interviewed Kentucky athletic director and former Wildcat superstar Cliff Hagan. Verne Lundquist, who announced a UNLV-South Carolina game earlier that day in Columbia, got raw emotion from Running Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian after his team was snubbed.
In later years, the chairman of the selection committee answered questions from CBS anchors and analysts, as well as coaches. There have been more than a few heated exchanges.
ESPN began the women’s selection show in the mid-1990s, and it has gained popularity as the women’s game has grown. It will likely draw the highest ratings this year in Louisiana, thanks to Kim Mulkey.
The selection show whetted the appetite of college basketball fans for what CBS would do when the games started four days later.
Black Rock came through big time.
Beginning in 1982, CBS televised a first-round game at 11:30 ET/10:30 CT/8:30 PT on Thursday AND Friday, plus three second-round games each day. CBS showed four live games (two Thursday and two Friday) in the Sweet Sixteen, then made sure every regional final had an uninterrupted three-hour window.
ESPN continued to show first round games through 1990. CBS took over the entire tournament beginning in 1991, and in 2011, coverage expanded to TBS, TNT and TruTV to ensure every game from the First Four to the championship was televised from start to finish in every household in the United States (and many in Canada) who wanted to watch.
YouTube has video of the 1982 selection show. That’s all you need to put in the search box.
One tradition which did not come for a few years was “One Shining Moment”. In 1982, following North Carolina’s 63-62 nail-biter over Georgetown in the Superdome to give Dean Smith his first national championship, CBS showed a montage of highlights, set to Sister Sledge’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us (Jackie’s Theme)”. Nowhere near as popular as “We Are Family” or “He’s the Greatest Dancer” for Sister Sledge, but I’m betting that song gets some play in Raleigh-Durham this time of year to the chagrin of Duke fans (hopefully not too much; besides, the Blue Devils have won five titles since OSM began in 1987).
In 1983, Christopher Cross’ “All Right” was selected for the highlights after North Carolina State’s stunning win over Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars (aka Phi Slamma Jamma). I hope Pam Valvano, her children and grandchildren listen to that song and remember Jimmy V. running up and down the court at Albuquerque looking for someone to hug. It was sad Jimmy V. couldn’t be at Cameron Indoor last Saturday for Coach K’s last home game.
Jennifer Hudson, YOU SUCK. Just look up “One Shining Moment 2010” and you will see why.
Coincidentally, CBS’ coverage of the NBA dramatically improved during the 1981-82 season.
The previous season, four of the six games in the championship series were tape-delayed and not televised until 11:35 ET/10:35 CT. Only if you lived in Boston or Houston could you see the games live; even the West Coast markets, where the games in Boston started before prime time, did not show them live.
In 1982, CBS showed all six games of the Lakers-76ers series live. Some earlier round games were still tape-delayed, but there were more live playoff games. Plus, Dick Stockton took over from Bender as play-by-play man, and he showed his mettle as one of the best, and my personal favorite.
I’m not a big college basketball fans, but those who are deserve the best coverage. CBS and its partners have given it to them for 39 seasons.