1939 The first national collegiate men's basketball
tournament was held. For the first 12 years, district playoffs
often were held with the winner entering an eight-team field for
the championship. The district games were not considered a part
of the tournament. The winners of the East and West regionals
were the only two teams to advance to the final site.
1940 The National Association of Basketball Coaches
held its annual convention at the site of the national finals
for the first time. It has been held there ever since.
1946 The championship game was televised locally for
the first time in New York City by CBS-TV as Oklahoma State
defeated North Carolina, 43-40. The initial viewing audience was
estimated to be 500,000.
This was the first time four teams advanced to the final
site. With only East and West regionals, the two regional
champions played for the national title while the regional
runner-ups played for third place.
1951 The field was expanded to 16 teams, with 10
conference champions qualifying automatically for the first
time. Those 10 conferences were: Big Seven, Big Ten, Border,
Eastern (Ivy), Missouri Valley, Pacific Coast, Skyline,
Southeastern, Southern and Southwest.
1952 Tournament games were televised regionally for
the first time.
The number of regional sites changed from two to four, with
the four winners advancing to the finals.
1953 The bracket expanded from 16 teams to 22 and
fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams until 1974.
1954 The Tuesday-Wednesday format for semifinals and
final game was changed to Friday-Saturday.
The championship game was televised nationally for the first
time as LaSalle defeated Bradley, 94-76, in Kansas City.
1957 The largest media group to that point in the
tournament's history was assembled for the finals in Kansas
City. Coverage included an 11-station television network, 64
newspaper writers and live radio broadcasts on 73 stations in
1963 A contract to run through 1968 was effected with
"Sports Network" for the championship game to be televised
nationally. Television rights totaled $140,000.
1966 Net income for the entire tournament exceeded
$500,000 for the first time.
A television-blackout provision requiring a 48-hour advance
sellout was adopted.
1969 The Friday-Saturday format for semifinals and
final game changed to Thursday-Saturday.
NBC was selected to televise the championship as television
rights totaled $547,500, exceeding $500,000 for the first time.
The tournament's net income of $1,032,915 was the first time
above the million-dollar mark.
1971 NBC recorded the largest audience ever for a
basketball network telecast during the semifinals as 9,320,000
households viewed the game.
1973 The Thursday-Saturday format for semifinals and
final game changed to Saturday-Monday.
Television rights totaled $1,165,755, exceeding $1,000,000
for the first time. NBC reported that the championship game was
the highest-rated basketball telecast of all time. The contest
received a rating of 20.5 and was seen by 13,580,000
television households reaching a total audience of 39 million
persons. For the first time, the championship game was
televised in prime time.
TVS, with the approval of NBC, agreed to televise those games
not carried by NBC for a two-year period at the rights fee of
$65,000 per year.
First-round byes were determined on the basis of an
evaluation of the conference's won-lost record over the past 10
years in National Collegiate Championship play.
The first public random drawing to fill oversubscribed orders
for Final Four game tickets was administered by the committee
for the 1974 championship.
1974 The bracket rotation was changed for the first
time, eliminating East vs. West bracketing in effect since
1939. East played West and Mideast played Midwest in national
The Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference was divided to
receive multiple automatic qualification berths in the
1975 A 32-team bracket was adopted. For the first
time, teams other than the conference champions could be chosen
at-large. No conference could be represented by more than two
teams. Sixteen teams qualified as conference champions, four
others as champions from the four regional tournaments which
were conducted by the ECAC, and the committee selected the other
Dressing rooms were opened to the media after a 10-minute
"cooling off" period.
The term “Final Four” first appeared in an NCAA publication,
the 1975 Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. On Page No. 5 in
the National Preview-Review section written by Ed Chay of the
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Clay wrote, “Outspoken Al McGuire of
Marquette, whose team was one of the final four in Greensboro,
was among several coaches who said it was good for college
basketball that UCLA was finally beaten.”
1976 The rights for the NCAA Radio Network were
awarded to Host Communications, Inc., of Lexington, Kentucky.
Regional third-place games were eliminated.
For the first time, two teams from the same conference (Big
Ten) played in the national championship game with Indiana
1977 NBC televised 23 hours and 18 minutes of
1978 A seeding process was used for the first time for
individual teams. A maximum of four automatic qualifying
conference teams were seeded in each of the four regional
brackets. These teams were seeded based on their respective
conferences' won-lost percentages in tournament play during the
past five years. At-large seeding in each region was based on
current won-lost records, strength of schedule and eligibility
status of student-athletes for postseason competition.
NBC televised the four regional championship games and a
first round doubleheader on Saturday and Sunday. NCAA
Productions televised all regional semifinal games and all other
Complimentary tickets for all NCAA championships were
1979 The bracket was expanded to 40 teams. For the
first time, all teams were seeded. The 16 conferences with the
best won-lost records over the previous five years of
championship play received byes into the second round. Eight
additional byes were available to independents, second
conference teams and champions of other conferences.
NBC received a record one-game rating with a 24.1 in Michigan
State's national championship victory over Indiana State. The 38
share also is a record. There were 18 million households
viewing, which ranks third.
Committee assigned three-man officiating crews for all
1980 The bracket was expanded to 48 teams, which
included 24 automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large teams. The top
16 seeds received byes to the second round. The committee
eliminated restrictions on the number of at-large teams selected
from one conference.
The committee’s primary objective in the bracketing process
became to provide equal balance in the four geographical
regions, and the committee began to assign teams to any of the
four regions in order to achieve balance while, when feasible,
attempting to keep teams in their areas of natural interest.
1981 Principles for the seeding and placement of teams
were implemented to develop a balanced tournament bracket. They
included establishing 12 levels that transcended each of the
four regions, dividing each region into three sections with
four levels each, placing only one conference team in each
regional, not assigning teams from a conference to meet before
the regional championship and placing teams in their geographic
area or on their home court if the first three principles were
A computer ranking system, the Ratings Percentage Index, was
used as an aid in evaluating teams in the preparation for
making at-large selections.
It became policy that "no more than 50 percent of the
tournament berths shall be filled by automatic qualifiers."
Virginia defeated Louisiana State in the last third-place
game conducted at the Final Four.
For the first time, the NCAA registered a trademark for the
term “Final Four,” with a stated first use of 1978.
1982 The NCAA and CBS began a three-year television
agreement for 16 exposures in the 1982, 1983 and 1984
The "selection show" was shown on live national television
for the first time.
North Carolina's national championship win against Georgetown
received a 21.6 rating and was the 11th-ranked prime time
program for that week. CBS also achieved second-round record
ratings with an 11.8 rating and 27 share on Saturday, and an
11.3 rating and 28 share on Sunday.
Host Communications and the CBS Radio Network co-produced the
NCAA Radio Network.
1983 An opening round was added that required the
representatives of eight automatic qualifying conferences to
compete for four positions in the 52-team tournament bracket.
This concept permitted the committee to retain a 48-team bracket
evenly balanced with 24 automatic qualifiers and at-large
selections, yet award automatic qualification to each of the 28
conferences that received it the year before. The 16 top-seeded
teams received byes to the second round of the tournament.
A scheduling format was established so the tournament would
begin the third weekend in March, regional championships on the
fourth Saturday and Sunday, and the national semifinals and
championship the following Saturday and Monday.
North Carolina State's national championship victory over
Houston attracted a then-record 18.6 million households to the
CBS telecast. The game had a 22.3 rating (third best) and a 32
share. It was the fifth-ranked prime time television program for
A national semifinal record also was set in Houston's victory
over Louisville. The game had a 17.8 rating and 33 share, and it
was viewed by 14,800,000 households on CBS.
It was determined that the Final Four competition venue must
have a minimum of 17,000 seats.
1984 One additional open-round game was established,
requiring 10 automatic qualifying conferences to compete for
five positions in the 53-team bracket that included 24
automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large selections.
For the first time, awards were presented to all teams
participating in the championship.
1985 The tournament bracket was expanded to include 64
teams, which eliminated all first-round byes.
The committee realigned each region and renamed the Mideast
region the Southeast region. Specifically, the Southern
Conference and MEAC were moved from the East to the Southeast
region; the Big Ten, Mid-American and SWAC moved from the
Southeast to the Midwest; the Metro and Trans America were moved
from the Midwest to the Southeast and the Southland and SWC were
moved from the Midwest to the West region.
The number of automatic qualifiers was capped at 30 for a
five-year period (1986-90).
CBS had a record 19.8 million homes view Villanova's national
championship victory over Georgetown. This game attracted a
23.2 rating (second best) and a 33 share. The game was the
second-rated prime time program on television for that week.
The East regional championship game (Georgetown defeated
Georgia Tech) set television records for that level of
tournament competition with a 12.6 rating, a 32 share and 10.7
million homes tuned to CBS.
The NCAA Radio Network reached an all-time high radio
audience for any sports event when the Villanova-Georgetown game
attracted 21 million listeners.
CBS began a second three-year contract that included 19
exposures in the 1985, 1986 and 1987 tournaments; the agreement
was signed November 21, 1983.
1986 CBS televised 40 hours, 51 minutes of tournament
The NCAA Radio network included a record 426 stations,
including 92 of the top 100 markets.
The bracketing policy was changed so two teams from the same
conference could not compete against each other prior to the
The committee determined that regional competition would be
played at neutral sites; if an institution serving as a
regional host was selected to the tournament field, it would be
bracketed in another region. Three separate three-man
officiating crews were assigned to the two national semifinals
and championship games.
For the 1986 event in Dallas, the NCAA conducted its first
random, computerized drawing for the general public’s allotment
of Final Four tickets.
1987 The National Association of Basketball Coaches
reaffirmed its endorsement of the policy that permits an
institution to participate on its home court in the first and
second rounds of competition.
Policy was changed to prohibit teams from the same conference
from competing against each other prior to regional
All 64 teams selected for the championship were subject to
1988 Initiating an agreement that was reached December
6, 1986, CBS began a third three-year contract. All regional
semifinal games were televised in prime time.
Separate three-man officiating crews were assigned to all
competition at regional and national championship sites.
The NCAA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Division I
Men’s Basketball Championship; the score in the Oklahoma-Kansas
championship game was tied, 50-50, at halftime.
1989 NCAA Executive Committee expanded a moratorium
enacted in 1984 limiting the bracket to 30 automatic
qualification conference champions and 34 at-large teams
through the 1998 championship. (August 1988)
NCAA Executive Regulation 1-6-(b)-1 was amended to strengthen
criteria governing automatic qualification for conferences.
A new bracket-rotation cycle was established. East vs. West,
Midwest vs. Southeast in 1989; East vs. Midwest, Southeast vs.
West in 1990; East vs. Southeast, West vs. Midwest in 1991.
It was agreed that neutral courts would be used in all rounds
of the championship.
After determining that three of the next four Final Four host
facilities should have a minimum capacity of 30,000, the
committee selected Charlotte, Seattle, The Meadowlands and
Indianapolis to host in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.
1990 Each person entering the general public random
computerized ticket drawing was limited to purchasing two Final
The basketball committee defined "home court" as an arena in
which a team has played no more than 50 percent of its
regular-season schedule, excluding conference tournament games.
The NCAA Executive Committee approved the "play-in" concept
to identify the 30 automatic qualifying conferences in
December, 1989. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) was computed
for the nonconference schedules of all eligible conferences,
with those with the lowest ranking competing for the available
automatic-qualifying positions. The "play-in" was implemented
in 1991 with 33 eligible conferences. Six conference
representatives played for three automatic-qualifying berths in
the 64-team bracket.
1991 CBS Sports began a new seven-year contract for $1
billion, which included live coverage of all sessions of the
championship through 1997. The agreement was signed November 22,
The definition of "home court" was amended to be a facility
in which a team plays more than three games during the regular
season, excluding conference tournaments.
1992 Duke University won its second consecutive
national championship, becoming the first team to defend its
title since UCLA in 1973.
1993 The minimum facility seating capacity for first
and second rounds and regionals was established at 12,000.
The basketball committee selected San Antonio, St.
Petersburg, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Atlanta to host the
Final Four in 1998 thru 2002.
1994 President Bill Clinton became the first sitting
president to attend the tournament, when he was present at the
Midwest Regional championship game in Dallas and the national
semifinals and final in Charlotte.
The use of combined shot clocks/game clocks was required at
The committee agreed to attempt to assign the top four seeds
in each region away from a site that may create a “home-crowd
advantage” for their opponents. The committee recognized that it
may be necessary to move lower-seeded teams from their natural
regions in order to accomplish this.
The weighting of the three factors comprising the ratings
percentage index (RPI), Division I winning percentage,
opponents' winning percentage and opponents' opponents’ winning
percentage, was adjusted from 20-40-20 to 25-50-25. Also a
second RPI, adjusted based upon a team's good wins, bad losses
and non-conference scheduling, was provided. 1995 The existing
CBS Sports contract was replaced with a new agreement for $1.725
billion extending for five years through the 2002 championship.
1996 The NCAA created the first on-line computer page
for the Final Four.
Pool reporters were permitted to interview game officials
after games under specified conditions.
Participating institutions’ seating locations were moved
closer to midcourt and nearer to the playing floor.
1997 Bracketing policies were changed so that, once
the highest-seeded team from a conference was assigned to a
region, only the eighth team selected from that conference could
be placed in that region.
The NCAA's on-line computer page was expanded to include
1998 Bracketing policies were changed so that
competition at all three sites within each particular region
would be conducted on the same days of the week and tournament
hosts' teams would be permitted to play on the days they are
The name of the Southeast Region was changed to the South
The basketball committee continued selecting Final Four host
facilities with a minimum seating capacity of 30,000 when it
picked New Orleans, San Antonio, St. Louis, Indianapolis and
Atlanta to host in 2003-2007.
Effective 1999, bracketing policies were changed so that,
once the highest-seeded team from a conference is assigned to a
region, no other team from that conference could be assigned to
the same region until the sixth team was chosen from the
1999 The basketball committee extended the Final Four
signs-covering policy to preliminary-round sites, effective
On November 18, the NCAA and CBS agreed to a new 11-year
agreement, commencing with the 2003 championship. The agreement,
for a minimum of $6 billion, included rights to television
(over-the-air, cable, satellite, digital and home video),
marketing, game programs, radio, Internet, fan festivals and
licensing (excluding concessionaire agreements).
In its continuing effort to combat the effects of gambling,
the committee began conducting background checks on game
officials. The NCAA checked 50 officials randomly selected from
among the 96 who worked the previous year's tournament.
2000 Inasmuch as 31 conferences were to be eligible
for automatic qualification in 2001, the committee agreed to
conduct an opening-round game the Tuesday before the
first/second rounds, pitting teams seeded No. 64 and 65.
The NCAA and the Illinois High School Association formed the
“March Madness Athletic Association” and applied for trademark
registration for the term “March Madness.” The registration was
granted in 2001. 2001 The committee determined that, effective
with the 2002 championship, first- and second-round sites would
no longer be assigned to specific regions. Rather, the committee
would have flexibility to assign four-team “pods” to sites near
the teams’ natural geographic areas, if possible.
Effective 2002, the committee eliminated the bracketing
provision that, once the highest-seeded team from a conference
was assigned to a region, only the sixth team from that
conference could be placed in that region.
The National Network (TNN) telecast the opening-round game.
For the first time, the NCAA registered a trademark for the
term “Big Dance,” with a stated first use of 2000.
2002 First-/second-round sites in non-domed stadiums
drew 99.5 percent of capacity, an all-time record.
During the selection meeting, for the first time each
committee member had the use of an individual computer for
researching and evaluating teams.
CBS expanded its live selection show to one hour.
ESPN televised the opening-round game for the first time.
2003 As part of the 1999 “bundled rights” agreement,
Westwood One assumed administration of the tournament’s radio
The basketball committee agreed that the minimum Final Four
seating capacity should be 40,000 and picked San Antonio,
Detroit, Indianapolis and Houston to host in 2008-2011.
2004 Rather than using the traditional annual rotation
of Final Four semifinals pairings (e.g., West vs. East, South
vs. Midwest) the committee began assigning the pairings during
selection weekend, making best effort to assign the winner of
top seed’s region to meet the fourth seed’s region and the
second seed’s region to meet the third seed’s region.
Instead of using the regional site designations (i.e., East,
Midwest, South, West), the committee identified regional sites
by the city in which the games are being played (i.e., Atlanta
2005 Culminating a four-year study, the committee
implemented a revised RPI formula to give additional weight to
playing and winning games on the road. The new formula weighs
road victories and home losses at 1.4; home victories and road
losses, at .6; and neutral-site victories and losses at 1.0.
CBS began a two-year deal with CSTV.com for exclusive
internet video streaming rights for out-of-market game coverage
for the first 58 games of the championship.
Effective with the 2006 championship, the committee revised
the bracketing principles so that if it is unable to reconcile
the bracket after exhausting all possible options, it has the
flexibility to permit two teams from the same conference to meet
each other after the first round, if the conference has more
than five participants.
Attendance at first-/second-round and regional sites was 98.4
percent of the facilities’ capacity, an all-time record. Arenas
other than domes were filled to 99.9 percent of capacity, also a