NCAA tips off celebration of 75th March Madness, which ends in Atlanta

The NCAA announced plans Tuesday for a season-long celebration of the 75th year of what has come to be known as “March Madness,” starting with a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York and culminating with the Final Four in Atlanta.

The NCAA said it will roll out programming and events throughout the season to celebrate the teams, people and moments of the men’s basketball tournament.

“It will be a really fun story to tell,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, said in a statement. “Today’s March Madness is more than a basketball competition, and we’re excited to help focus a lens on the historical role it has played on college campuses and across our country.”

The first NCAA tournament was held in 1939, an eight-team tourney won by the Oregon Webfoots (now Ducks). Since then, 308 schools have had teams in the Division I tournament. The 75th tournament will start with 68 teams and end with the Final Four in the Georgia Dome on April 6 and 8.

The celebration starts next week in New York, where former tournament stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Christian Laettner will ride on the March Madness float in the Macy’s parade and will be honored the next day during the championship game of the NIT Season Tipoff event in Madison Square Garden.

Other 75th-year celebration plans announced by the NCAA:

  • An interactive year-by-year timeline of tournament history, posted at ncaa.com/marchmadness.
  • A fan vote, starting in January, to select the favorite teams, players and moments of March Madness.
  • Programming and commercials across various platforms of the CBS and Turner networks.
  • On-campus activations to showcase various schools’ places in tournament history.
  • “The March Madness art collection,” paintings commemorating each championship team and its coach, to be displayed at the NCAA’s fanfest during the Final Four.
  • And in partnership with Samaritan’s Feet – an organization that provides shoes to needy youth around the world – a season-long effort to raise funds for 75,000 pairs of shoes.

Locally, the Final Four organizing committee is seeking more than 2,000 volunteers “to help with everything from greeting guests at Atlanta hotels to assisting with youth and community events.” Online registration for volunteer positions opened to the public this week at www.volunteerfinalfouratl.com.

The Atlanta Local Organizing Committee expects Final Four weekend to bring 100,000 visitors to the city.

The NCAA Divisions II and III men’s championship games will be played in Atlanta the same weekend as the Division I Final Four, marking the first time the champions of all three divisions have been crowned in the same city. The Divisions II and III title games will be played in Philips Arena on April 7, the Sunday between the Final Four’s semifinal doubleheader and title game.

— Tim Tucker, AJC

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