About the History of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and another Tournament Q

I’ve heard that, until some time “in the mid sixties,” the NIT was the post-season tournament to be in, and that the NCAA tournament was just an afterthought. Then, that changed.

Can someone plase point to when & why? A more descriptive time frame than “in the mid sixties” would be helpful.

Has the NCAA been hosting a double-elimination tournament for as long as they’ve been administrating college basketball?

The “I” in NIT stands for “Invitational.” Who, exactly, is doing the inviting? Is it all a corporate thing? Some committee somewhere?

Also, unrealted to the history of the tournament: During one of the games yesterday I saw a commercial (produced and paid for by the NCAA) touting the purity of the NCAA tournament. The commercial asked fans to keep it pure, and ended with the words “Don’t bet on it.”

Yeah, right. In addition to all the (presumably legal) tournament action changing hands in Las Vegas, there are untold millions of dollars in bracket pools in offices across the U.S. Does the NCAA really have a problem with this? I could see where they’d want to keep Da Mob or syndicates from trying to fix games, but sports betting is a part of life in this country and it’s not going to change in my lifetime. Does the NCAA have some philosphical opposition to people betting on the games (the purity and nobility of the spirit of competition, and all that), or do they just want a cut of the action? :confused: Has the NCAA ever sued (and won) to stop an office pool?

I’m utilizing my one bump.

Hey! I’m reading newspapers from the time period as fast as I can. Have patience!

Did you know that as recent as 1949, teams could play in both tournaments? Kentucky tried to win both that year, but didn’t pull it off.

I’ll post more later, trying to answer your OP.

The tournament is single elimination. One loss and you’re out.

It’s been single elimination for as long as I can remember. I can’t say for sure that it was never double elimination (two losses and you’re out), but I doubt it ever was.

The City College of New York did in fact pull it off in 1950. However, the next year there was a very damaging point shaving scandal involving CCNY



As an aside, they were eight-team tounaments back then. Both leagues.

Sorry, my terminology was wrong. I meant to say single elimination.

Well, it’s kind of hard to say exactly when the NCAA tournament surpassed the NIT tournament in prestige. The CCNY point-shaving scandal had something to do with it; the NIT is closely identified with New York City college basketball and it’s run by the MIBA, made up of representatives from five other NYC schools. The finals have always been played in Madison Square Garden (both old and new).

The NIT is only one year older than the NCAA tourney, so it’s possible to overstate the NIT’s prestige. Also, for a long time conference champions were the only ones invited to the NCAA’s, so the NIT was mostly a kind of second-chance tournament.

Possibly the sea change could be said to have happened in 1975. The NCAA tournament opened up to include at-large teams (there were 7 of those and 25 conference champions, for a field of 32; it’s now up to 65 schools); teams could choose which tournament to go to, and that undoubtedly swung the balance of power to the tournament that already had the conference champions. Meanwhile the NIT had just a 16 team field until 1979; as late as 1964 it only had 12 teams.

1975 also meant the last of the great UCLA teams (GO BRUINS!) and the retirement of their coach, John Wooden. Dynasties have a way of coalescing public attention, and by taking 10 championships in 12 years UCLA and Coach Wooden had certainly brought more than their share to the NCAA tournament.

In 1985 the NIT began a preseason version of its tournament, in addition to the postseason one. This is the biggest and possibly most prestigious preseason tournament, for what it’s worth. It takes place at the tail end of college football season and tends to get lost in the shuffle.

The NIT started out in 1938 and was originally administered by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. A few years later, administration was passed over to the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, which was and still is made up of of representatives from the five New York schools - Fordham, St. John’s, NYU, Manhattan and Wagner. These are the folks that do the inviting.

The NIT was much bigger in prestige in the early years a little because it was a bit older than the NCAA tournament, but mostly because it was based in New York City. The entire tournament was held there, so it got tons of exposure. And teams loved going to it because of that exposure. Players loved going to it not only for the exposure, but because the NIT was the bigger tournament and made more money largely due to location, it gave better welcome packages to participating teams - I believe watches and such were fairly common. The NCAA only gave out a medal. The NCAA tournament couldn’t compete with any of that, so for the most part, the top teams played in the NIT, although, a few decided to both.

Since the NCAA is mostly in the business of making money, they had to figure out a way to make their tournament the top dog. Since they couldn’t compete with the money or locatio of the NIT, they simply used their rule-making ability to start to snuff out the NIT’s prestige.

In 1951 they expanded from 8 teams to 16 then to 22 in 1953. That same year, they made a rule that teams could only participate in one postseason tournament - either the NIT or the NCAA. Well, teams were still picking to go to the NIT so the NCAA started to tighten its grip a bit. They adopted the “Expected Participation Rule” that said that all NCAA institutions were expected to choose NCAA events over any other.

Over the next two decades, the NCAA tournament continuously expanded and they eliminated the rule that said only conference champions could participate. More schools participating meant more exposure and more revenue, meaning greater financial benefits for the teams participating.

In 1981 the NCAA brought the hammer down and effectly eliminated any notion of the NIT as a competitor to the NCAA tournament. They created the “Commitment to Participate” rule which basically stated that any team invited to participate in the NCAA tournament MUST accept or they were not able to participate in any other tournament. When combined with the rule that said you could only participate in one postseason tournament, the NCAA effectively used its monopoly status to end any competition. The NCAA gets first choice of teams to invite and so the NIT no longer has any shot of landing any of the top teams.

As for gambling, the NCAA loves it (as does the NFL). They do everything they can to make gambling easier, like requiring teams to disclose injuries because the more people that are gambling on your sport the more people are going to watch and the more of an event you become. Of course, given various point shaving scandals, the NCAA has to put on the public face that they don’t approve so as to maintain the “integrity” of the sport.

The last instance of any school turning down an NCAA bid to participate in the NIT was back in 1970 when Marquette did so.

Al McGuire knew that his team wouldn’t have a chance against UCLA and he would be better off spending a week in New York than traipsing around the country for the right to have his hat handed to him. The NCAA was not happy about this.

For one or at most two years (I think it was one), the NCAA also started something called The Collegiate Commissioner’s Tournament which was supposed to be for conference runnersup. I think there was just one. Indiana won it.

When the NIT expanded to 32 teams, it also started playing games at campus sites instead of all of them at Madison Square Garden. It helped attendance a bit. The probleme was that for many years, the NIT would just make up the pairings as they went along.

Finally, the NIT put all the teams into a fixed bracket although you still don’t know who will be the home team.
Just the semifinals and final are in New York now. Last year, they got rid of the third place game, much to my disappointment. It always ensured that there would be at least three teams in college basketball that finished the season with a win. Now only the NCAA and NIT champs are guaranteed to finish with a win.

And I suppose a few Ivy League schools (since there is no conference tournament) also finish the season with a win.

And USC. Only 8 teams make the Pac-10 tournament.

There are a few other conferences where not all the teams make it. The Big West is one of them. CUSA is another.

I wouldn’t count on USC building up a long winning streak.

I’d say that the mid 50s were the big turning point.

In 1955 and 1956 Bill Russell’s San Francisco team won. In 1957 Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas lost to North Carolina. 1960, Ohio State won, and then lost the next two years to Cincinnati, with Oscar Robinson, Jerry West and Jerry Lucas in the mix. Then 10 years of UCLA with Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton and the rest of that crew.

So for more than a decade a superstar college player won or contested for the NCAA and then went on to become a superstar NBA player, names who are still ranked in the top ten ever.

The NIT had no names to compare. The NBA barely had names to compare. College basketball was King outside of Boston, where the Celtics won every year so that the rest of the country didn’t care much.

It was a Golden Age of sorts for college basketball. The NIT started shrinking after the CCNY schedule. Teams like Bradley, St. Johns, Providence and Dayton won eight of nine titles without being national powers.

After the UCLA reign they had nothing left to offer and shrank to meaninglessness.

Ah yes, the CCA. It ranks with the NFL Playoff Bowl among the pantheon of failed, ill-conceived sporting ventures.

It did in fact linger on for two years. It was called the Conference Commissioner’s Association Tournament in 1974 and the Commissioner’s National Invitational Tournament in 1975.

The CCA/CNIT represented a failed attempt by the NCAA to steal thunder from the NIT. (As other posters have detailed, other attempts were more successful.) The NCAA powers reasoned that conference champions would go the NCAA tournament, and second-place teams to the CCA, relegating the NIT to third-tier status. The NIT, however, at least had some tradition behind it and could mix in independent schools along with the conference “losers”. The CCA/CNIT never gained any traction at all.

Indiana earned its berth in the 1974 bash by losing a one-game Big Ten tie-breaker to Michigan, whereupon Bob Knight raged at having to play in a tournament for losers and threatened to defy the NCAA by refusing to participate. His team voted to play, however (probably because the alternative was getting yelled at by Knight in practice all week), and went on to win the tournament. Purdue “won” the Big Ten berth in 1975, but I don’t know who won the tournament that year. It was discontinued when the NCAA allowed second-place teams to play in the NCAA tournament starting in 1976.