1978 NCAA b-ball championship in St. Louis: period detail?

Thanks to Dopers who helped me write my recent football story set in 1948. It is being published in a pub that goes out to stadiums with a circ of about 100k.

I am now writing a new story about the 1978 NCAA championship. The game itself will be fictionalized, but I am looking for period detail to gussy up the story. The main character will also spend some time walking around St. Louis.

Keeping in mind the final game was on Monday, March 27, here are some questions I have for you:

  1. If the final game ends on a Monday, and presuming the student-athletes still have classes, how do they get back to school, etc., without destroying their class schedule? For that matter, what happens to all their classes during the tournament (obviously this pertains equally to 1978 and 2008).

  2. Although my final game will be fictionalized, any period detail about the stadium, events surrounding the game (tickets widely available, tickets not available, etc.)?

  3. Any period detail about new NCAA basketball rules and policies back then? (For example, there was no 3-point shot then, right?)

  4. Any period detail about St. Louis in March 1978?

Thanks for whatever help you can offer!

No shot clock, no three point line, extremely short shorts.

You probably already researched this, but here is a youtube clip from the actual game.

For architectural research (i.e. what buildings existed, what they were for and how they looked), check out Built St. Louis.


Wow do I remember that game. Givens, Macy, Lee, Rick Robey and Mike Phillips. Joe B. Hall’s swan song. TC. Jay Shidler. Dwayne Casey.

You’re talking about Kentucky basketball prior to scandal of the 80’s. In general, they didn’t have to worry about their class schedule, grades et al much. As to the following Tuesday, as I recall Lexington pretty much shut down that day (I was in sixth grade.) But in general my perception is that the attitude towards academics was pretty lax at that time.

The '78 tournament didn’t have the frenzy that the NCAA tournament has today. In '79 Magic Johnson and Larry Bird met in the finals in Salt Lake City and for many years that game remained the most watched basketball game in history. (In '78 Magic Johnson’s team lost to Kentucky in the Regional Finals.) That personal rivalry started a resurgence in interest in basketball. To give you an idea of how low basketball had sunk, the final game of the 1980 NBA finals were not carried live. The game was shown on tape delay after prime time. Therefore, if you are looking for accuracy, don’t describe the game as having the same level of interest as The Final Four has today. Also, CMIIW but the tournament only included 48 teams, not the 64+1 that we have today.

I can’t remember so you might research whether “Final Four” and “March Madness” were even trademarks of the NCAA at the time. They might not have been.

As noted, no shot clock and no three point line so the style of the game and the way it was coached was very different. (Remember North Carolina’s “four corners” [lack of] offense?)

That may be basketball Kentucky style (and elsewhere), but the man who scored the most points during the Final Four, Duke’s Mike Gminski, not only graduated high school a year early, and was an Academic All-American, he was one of 25 Finalists for the Verizon Academic All-American Hall of Fame in 2002 (five are selected). North Carolina’s Dean Smith made sure his team went to class, too, as much as it pains me to say something nice about him.

“Final Four” was used. “March Madness” was not.

John Feinstein has written a book about Duke’s 1977-78 basketball season, which should provide a lot of the details you’re looking for: Forever’s Team.

Here’s some info on the Checkerdome, where the game was played, including a lot of personal reminiscenses. More from Wiki.