âMarch Madnessâ is a lot like âBlack Fridayâ â we use it every year at the same time without really knowing where it came from. So while we have a couple of days to catch our breath between rounds, we decided to bring in the man who can best give us the history behind the phrase: iconic play-by-play man Brent Musburger. Here are five things you probably didnât know about âMarch Madness.â
No. 1: Brent didnât make it up, but he did make it famous.
âI worked locally in Chicago,â Musburger says, âfirst as a writer for the Chicago Daily News and then as a broadcaster. First time I saw the term âMarch Madness,â it was print, in an ad for a car dealer. It was referring to the Illinois high school basketball tournament. [Ed. Note: the term originally comes from a magazine writer describing the high school tournament in 1939: "A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.â] When we got the rights to the NCAA tournament in 1982, it was something that seemed appropriate to say.â
No. 2: Brentâs turn of phrase led to a lawsuit.
The Illinois High School Association tried to trademark âMarch Madnessâ in 1989. Then, in 1996, the IHSA sued the NCAA in an effort to stop one of its corporate partners from using the term on a CD-ROM game. Eventually, the two sides reached a compromise: the IHSA can use the phrase on the high school level, and the NCAA gets the college tournament.
âHowever,â Musburger says, âEvery year, in any bracket pool I play, I call my team Musburgerâs March Madness. And I defy the NCAA to come after me.â
No. 3: Brent doesnât revel in his contribution to society. Really.
âI just thought it was a catchy phrase that described what was happening with all these teams,â Musburger says. âThen everyone was using it. I didnât consciously think about it at the time. It was one of those nights where chaos rules, controversy, upsets âŚ it never changes. The Madness part is the fabric of the tournament. Thatâs what makes it a beautiful event. I donât sit around and think about it. I just thought at the time it fit.â
No. 4: That said, Brent doesnât want the term â or the tournament â to get shoved aside.
There has been some talk about pushing the tournament back. After all, the BCS Championship is now more than a week after the traditional Jan. 1 date for big bowl games. Musburger doesnât want the Big Dance moved, so heâs hoping his phrase can be a firewall. âThe term is so identified,â he says, âthat they would have a hard time pushing it out of March. I donât think April Madness has the same ring.â
No. 5: Sorry, Brent did not coin the phrase âFinal Four.â
That honor goes to another sportswriter, Ed Chay of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who wrote in 1975 that Marquette was âone of the final fourâ the year before. The NCAA ran with it. However, Brent has another phrase!
âActually I do,â he says. âI tried it this year at the BCS Championship game â âPlaying for all the Tostitos.â So far it has not caught on."