About March Madness
"March Madness" was born in Illinois. The annual tournament of high school boys basketball teams, sponsored by the Illinois High School Association, grew from a small invitational affair in 1908 to a statewide institution with over 900 schools competing by the late 1930's. A field of teams known as the "Sweet Sixteen" routinely drew sellout crowds to the University of Illinois' Huff Gymnasium. In a time before television, before the college game became popular with the average fan, before professional eagues had established a foothold in the nation's large cities, basketball fever had already reached epidemic proportions in the Land of Lincoln.
Today's March Madness is different from the original version. Nowadays an "Elite Eight" of teams advances to the state finals, but there are four tournaments — a Class A (small school) and Class AA (large school) version for both boys and girls, played in Peoria and Normal. "The Happening," a thrilling contest featuring the state's best three-point shooters and dunkers, is now a part of these tournaments as well. And starting in 1996, the "March Madness Experience," an exhibition hall full of fun, games, and good times, has allowed fans of Illinois high school basketball to join in the action.Read More