COPYRIGHT 2006 MADDIE'S DADDY PRODUCTIONS
Chapter XV: AnnouncementAfter a late night of partying at The Excelsior, Newell, the coaches and players camped out at the hotel to wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show, which was scheduled to be broadcast at 5 p.m. by CBS Little Rock affiliate KTHV.
When he subbed for Billy Tubbs in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, he received a telephone call from the NCAA Division I Men’s Selection Committee telling him they were going to Evansville to play the University of Alabama at Birmingham before the broadcast hit the air.
He assumed the same would happen on this day. Members of the media started showing up at the 15th floor suite about 3:30 p.m.
The phone rang three times and the media and gathered administrators moved into the bedroom to watch as Newell answered what was thought to be a historic call. Television cameras turned on. Newspaper photographers were clicking away. Reporters started documenting Newell’s actions. Each time the call was just someone wanting to know where the Trojans would be playing.
At 4:45 p.m., everyone moved in front of the television, convinced the call would never come. Finally, 5 p.m. arrived. And CBS Sports went on the air with its “Road to the Final Four” show.
Brent Musburger and Billy Packer greeted the audience.
“From Kansas City, this man, Dick Schultz, chairman of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, will announce which 64 teams will embark on the road to the Final Four,” Musburger said. “Good afternoon everybody and welcome. I’m Brent Musburger, along with Billy Packer. And we’re about to find out which highway 64 teams will attempt to travel just to get to Dallas.”
“Well, it ought to be very interesting,” Packer said. “It’s a super time of the year for me. Maybe the Saturday, the super Saturday before the final game, might be a little more important, but this one always leads up to a great day.”
In Kansas City, Missouri, Gary Bender was at the home of the NCAA, standing in front of four large brackets -- two yellow and two white. There weren’t the high-tech brackets we’re used to seeing now, these looked like pieces of paper taped to poster board. But it relayed the same message.
“Now before we go to the boards and show you the different regions, we want to tell you about the top four seeds in each of those regions,” Bender said. “In the West, it’s St. John’s In the Midwest, Kansas. In the Southeast, Kentucky. And in the East is Duke. Duke the top overall seed.Four of the top nine all-time winningest programs.”
Anticipation was now running high at The Excelsior. They figured to be anywhere from a 13 to 15 seed. They also figured they could be sent just about anywhere.
Quiet fell over the suite as Bender announced the West Region with games in Ogden, Utah, and Long Beach, Calif. Sixteen teams were announced, no UALR.
“It’s not Louisville. It’s not St. John’s either,” Newell shouted out seemingly after each matchup was announced, drawing a big laugh each time.
“Now we go to the Midwest Region. Two sites -- Dayton, Ohio, and Minneapolis, Minnesota,” Bender said. “In Dayton, they’ll be playing at the Dayton Arena. Those games on Thursday and Saturday.”
16. North Carolina A&T vs. 1. Kansas
9. Temple vs. 8. Jacksonville
12. Washington vs. 5. Michigan State
13. Texas Tech vs. 4. Georgetown
“Now the other site in the Midwest Region, the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twin Cities,” Bender said. “Those games will be played on …. “
In mid-sentence, the graphic switched from a picture of the Metrodome to the bracket. And a loud roar took over the suite.
On the bottom of the screen was: Arkansas-Little Rock, seeded 14th, matched up with Notre Dame, seeded 3.
“We see it on TV and the place went nuts,” Newell said. “Gosh yes, that made it better. We didn’t have to sweat it out, but not knowing made it better. Then we find out we’re playing Notre Dame.”
Most probably couldn’t even hear how Bender made the announcement: “Notre Dame, who made it to the Final Four in ‘78, and with the best record among all independents, is third seeded. And they will meet the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock, 14th seeded.
It was a relief for Springer.
“All of us just wanted to see our name,” he said. “We thought we’d go someplace hard. But going up north, close to where my family is from and playing a team like Notre Dame made it even better.”
With everyone celebrating, Newell was locked in, trying to see who else was in the region.
11. Iowa vs. 6. North Carolina State
10. Miami (Ohio) vs. 7. Iowa State
15. Akron vs. 2. Michigan
Newell liked this matchup almost immediately.
“We’re really happy, No. 1, to be in the NCAAs,” Newell said. “Notre Dame is a very talented team. I think we match up well with them. We’re a little quicker than they are. They don’t have the height of North Carolina or Michigan or Louisville, the kind of height that has hurt us in the past. So we’re very happy. I think that’s a real good pick for us. Here’s a team that’s big, but not oversized.”
Packer and Musburger glossed over the game. They were more concerned about the potential matchup of Iowa State Coach Johnny Orr against his former team, Michigan.
“Orr took Michigan into a championship game that you covered back in the days where you were a youngster and had hair and were working for NBC,” Musburger said.
“That’s when I was getting paid real money,” Packer joked.
ESPN’s selection special with Bob Ley and Dick Vitale largely did the same. Vitale was furious about Syracuse and LSU getting to play games on their home courts.
“The winner of that game takes on the winner of Arkansas-Little Rock, the Trojans coached by Mike Newell, and Notre Dame,” Ley said.