March Madness logo last year.
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So, Where Did the Term 'March Madness' Come From Anyway?

March Madness. It's a phrase sports fans look forward to every year to close out the college basketball season, and there's nothing else quite like it. It's the source of water cooler debates and the tears that stream down our faces once our brackets are busted after the first round of games.

The NCAA Tournament has a long and illustrious history that began all the way back in 1939, the same year the phrase "March Madness" was born. However, the NCAA didn't use that phrase in conjunction with the tournament until the 1980s, and the origin of "March Madness" actually traces back to high school basketball thanks to a man by the name of Henry V. Porter.

The Man Who Coined 'March Madness' 

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You can thank Porter, an Illinois high school official, for creating the phrase in 1939. Porter used "March Madness" to describe the excitement around the Illinois state high school basketball tournaments, which consisted of more than 900 schools in the late 1930s, according to the Illinois High School Association. The NCAA also officially recognizes Porter.

Porter was a teacher and coach at Athens High School. He helped popularize the phrase in an essay he wrote called "March Madness" in 1939. He also wrote about it in a 1942 poem called "Basketball Ides of March," which appeared in the "Illinois Interscholastic." Below is the last line of that poem:

With war nerves tense, the final defense
Is the courage, strength and will
In a million lives where freedom thrives
And liberty lingers still.
Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March. 

Porter was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960 for his contributions to the game, particularly his developments to the backboard and basketball itself.

A Battle For the March Madness Trademark

The March Madness logo on chairs.

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The first mention of March Madness in the NCAA Tournament wasn't until CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger said it during the 1982 tournament. He admitted he first heard the phrase being used in Chicago, where he was first a sportswriter.

The IHSA owned the trademark for the term since it was first used. But according to Gerben Law, it became annoyed that the NCAA was using the phrase throughout the '90s, during which a legal battle ensued.

It wasn't until 2011 that the NCAA reportedly paid $17.2 million for sole ownership of the trademark. That's a small price to pay considering the value of the phrase — and the fact that almost all of the NCAA's revenue is generated by the three-week-long tournament (about a billion dollars).

The NCAA owns many trademarks beyond "March Madness." The "Elite Eight," "Final Four," "Big Dance" and "March Mayhem" — whatever that is — are all also registered trademarks.

The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament has come a long way since Oregon beat Ohio State in the first one in 1939, which consisted of just eight teams. It didn't officially expand to 64 teams until 1985, three years after March Madness was first mentioned by Musburger.

It's a good thing the NCAA owns the phrase, because "March Mayhem" just doesn't hit the same.

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