The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

Synopsis

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is one of the iconic events in American sports. In this fast-paced, in-depth account, J. Samuel Walker and Randy Roberts identify the 1973–74 season as pivotal in the making of this now legendary postseason tournament. In an era when only one team per conference could compete, the dramatic defeat of coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins by the North Carolina State Wolfpack ended a decade of the Bruins’ dominance, fueled unprecedented national attention, and prompted the NCAA to expand the tournament field to a wider range of teams. Walker and Roberts provide a richly detailed chronicle of the games that made the season so memorable and uncover the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that set the stage for the celebrated spectacle that now fixes the nation’s attention every March.

Excerpt

This book began with an informal conversation the authors had at the 2012 meeting of the American Historical Association. Since we both were experienced in writing sport history— a long-standing area of interest for Randy Roberts and a recent one for Sam Walker— Roberts suggested that we do a book together. Walker immediately and enthusiastically agreed.

The more difficult task was deciding on a topic. We considered and discarded several ideas that we thought were too unwieldy or too dull. Finally, we came up with the idea of doing a book on the 1973–74 college basketball season, the last year in which only conference champions and selected independents were invited to play for the national championship in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. Our research took on a clearer focus after Walker was asked to appear as a talking head in a series of programs that CBS and the CBS Sports Network presented in early 2013 to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the tournament. In an effort to sound authoritative, Walker prepared for his interview by reading widely on the history of the tournament. From this review, it seemed apparent that two NCAA decisions were the keys to the creation of what eventually became known as March Madness. The first, in 1972, was to expand the number of teams invited to compete for the national championship. The second, in 1974, was to allow more than one member of a conference to participate in the tournament. What was less clear was why and in what context the NCAA took those steps.

The reconstruction of the reasoning behind the NCAA’s expansion, happily, required a careful examination of the events of the 1973–74 college basketball season. What a season it was! It featured eminent coaches, celebrated players, classic games, four storied programs in the final rounds of the NCAA tournament, Cinderella teams, and the end of the UCLA dynasty that had dominated college basketball during the previous decade. The events of the season provided the essential background for the answers we found to the question of why the NCAA expanded the tournament and opened it to teams that did not win their conference championship.

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