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Brent Musberger reveals the surprising origins of the term 'March Madness'

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 3 days ago Mike Santa Barbara, Yardbarker
Brent Musberger © Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports Brent Musberger

Often credited with popularizing the iconic term "March Madness," legendary broadcaster Brent Musberger recently revealed its surprising origins. 

Appearing on the 'Rich Eisen Show' this week, Musberger explained that the well-known phrase stems from the Illinois state basketball tournament and a car dealer in Chicago. 

Musberger said he first heard "March Madness" during the early days of his writing and broadcasting career and it stayed in the back of his mind until years later when he began covering the annual event. 

"There was a car dealer who was always close to the state high school basketball tournament in the state of Illinois. It was a big, big deal," Musberger said. "In fact, the state basketball tournament at the time in Indiana and Illinois was actually bigger than the college tournament. And he referred to it in an ad -- that ran in our paper, the Chicago American -- as March Madness." 

After Musberger coined a particularly crazy day in the NCAA Tournament as "Madness in March," the phrase eventually shifted to the more well-known "March Madness." Once it became popular, the NCAA naturally wanted to copyright the term. When approached by the athletics governing body, Musberger divulged where he heard it first, which led to a settlement with Illinois. 

Musberger chalks it all up to a happy accident that will stand the test of time. 

"It wasn't something I was thinking about, but we had a couple of big upsets that night," Musberger said. "I was at the board, and I called it March Madness, and, obviously, it stuck, and it's a great description." 

Musberger also indicated that the NCAA had past discussions about possibly moving the tournament to April. Thankfully, a change never occurred because what would we call it now? April Anarchy? Anxiety in April? 

Fortunately, there won't be any need for alliterations with April, as "March Madness" is here to stay.

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