Ranking the NCAA in the Classroom as Well as on the Court

05/17/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Have you finished filling out your brackets for the NCAA Tournament?

If you haven't, time is of the essence. Tip-off is Thursday, just a shade past noon (EST) when Florida takes on BYU in Oklahoma.

That's when all the madness begins. Will a No. 1 seed go down earlier than you expected, screwing up your bracket; do you have Duke going far enough or much too far?

Will President Obama repeat in picking the NCAA champion correctly? He was right in selecting North Carolina last year; this year, 44 likes Kansas, while predicting a first round upset for Siena over Purdue.

Whenever I feast my eyes on the tournament, and see the gripping athleticism alongside the cheerleaders and the students whooping it up and getting crazy, I often wonder how much actual school work gets done at these colleges and universities, especially the players. Are basketball players really expected to attend lectures for classes like British Lit or Bio & Man, when they're are out on the floor busting their behinds for their schools?

Well, yes, at least according Jim Marchiony, Associate Athletics Director of External Relations at the University of Kansas, who informs me most definitely the faculty [at Kansas] does not lower its standards come tournament time -- or any other time''. "Faculty members,'' Marchiony writes in an email, "expect members of the basketball team to complete the same work they expect their classmates to complete.''

Marchiony additionally enlightened me that an academic advisor travels with the Jayhawks basketball team throughout the season, including the tournament, and regular study seasons are held. Fortunately for Kansas, like many of the participating schools, they are on spring break, which helps lighten the players load during the early rounds.

But the premium the University of Kansas places on academics has paid huge dividends. Inside Higher Education, as they have the previous four years, recently evaluated teams according to their academic progress rate and selected Kansas as the national champions, edging out Duke in the championship game.


To get ready for the tournament, what follows are some Cliff Notes (compliments of the NCAA press office) on the history of the tournament.

• The first NCAA Tournament game was held on March 17, 1939, when Villanova defeated Brown, 42-30 in Philadelphia.

• The first televised championship game came on March 26, 1946, when WCBS-TV in New York broadcast Oklahoma defeating North Carolina 43-40 with an estimated 500,000 tuning in. The first nationally televised championship game didn't come until 1954 for a broadcast fee of $7,500

• Bob Kurland of Oklahoma State was the first player to dunk a basketball in a NCAA tournament on March 26, 1946

• 1952 was the first year there were four regional sites.

• On March 15, 1958, Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson scored 56 points against Arkansas, making him the first player to rack up more than 50 points in a tournament game.

• Terry Baker of Oregon State (in 1963) was the first Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Final Four

• The first to win the tournament in his first year as coach was Ed Jucker of Cincinnati in 1961.

• Beginning in 1953, the bracket was expanded from 16 to 22 teams and fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams until 1974. The field was expanded to 32 teams beginning in 1975.

• The first seeding process was adopted in 1978.

• The brackets were expanded to 40 teams in 1979, then 48 teams in 1980

• The first time none of the No. 1 seeds failed to advance to the Final Four was in 1980

• In 1985, the brackets were expanded to 64 teams, eliminating first-round byes

• Ed Chay of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland coined the term ``Final Four'' when it appeared for the first time on page five of a NCAA publication: ``The 1975 Official Collegiate Basketball ''

• In 1994, Bill Clinton became the first sitting U.S. president to attend a tournament when he attended the Midwest regional championship game in Dallas, where he saw Arkansas win the title.

• 1996: The NCAA created the first online computer page for the men's basketball championship.

• 1999: NCAA signs an 11-year broadcasting agreement with CBS.

• 2005: CBS arranges a deal with for exclusive Internet video streaming for out-of-market game coverage of the first 58 games of the tournament.

• 2008: For the first time in tournament history, all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four.

• 2009: Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to fill out a bracket on national television with ESPN's Andy Katz

-Bill Lucey

Source: NCAA