When the referee first tossed up the ball at center court 51 years ago, the
floodgates opened and the National Tournament was immediately established
as a major sporting event.
Origniated by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association in 1938, responsibility for administering the NIT was transferred two years later to local
colleges, first known as the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Committee
and in 1948, as the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association (MIBA),
which today is comprised of representatives from the five New York City
schools, Fordham, Manhattan, New York University, St. John's and Wagner.
The first edition of the NIT was played at Madison Square Garden, located
between 49th and 50th Streets. The "old" Garden remained the Tournament's
home for thirty years until 1968, when for the first time it was played in, as the
late Pulitzer Prize sportswriter, Red Smith, pegged it "the most famous and
glamorous arena in creation"—the Garden on 33rd Street. It is here that the
NIT and the Garden continue their illustrious relationship.
In 1977, NIT Executive Director, Peter A. Carlesimo and the Tournament
Committee implemented a plan that gave college basketball fans an opportunity
to see their local favorites in tournament play. This innovation involved playing
at different fieldhouses and arenas throughout the country.
"We took a chance when we experimented with the early round games on
a regional basis and instant success followed," explained Carlesimo. The
revised format, the most striking change in NIT history, is responsible for the
tourney compiling record breaking attendance figures, including the 1981 tally
of 326,466, the largest fan turnout in NIT annals.
The NIT's single game attendance record occured in Lexington, Kentucky
in 1979, when 23,522 spectators watched Clemson defeat Kentucky in overtime.
The single game scoring record was set in 1977 by Anthony Roberts of Oral
Roberts University when he scored 65 points in a losing effort against the
University of Oregon. Al Inniss of St. Francis (NY) holds the rebound record
when he handled 37 caroms against Lafayette in 1956. Since the NIT's inception, 190 schools have participated in the NIT, with St. John's holding the
record for most appearances with twenty-four. St. John's and Bradley share
the record for most NIT titles with four.
A new chapter in the long and storied history of the NIT unfolds when Jack
Powers takes over the reigns of Executive Director on July 1, 1988. Powers
has been an integral part of the MIBA for ten years, serving on the NIT Committee as part of his duties as the director of athletics at Manhattan College.
"I am certainly looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead, although
following Pete Carlesimo is no easy task. His accomplishments on behalf of
the NIT are legendary and the solid foundation Pete has laid gives me great
confidence that we can build an even greater NIT in the future," commented
Powers, a 1958 graduate of Manhattan, where he was a basketball standout
and Jasper captain his senior year.
For 51 years, the National Invitation Tournament has showcased some of
the greatest talents in college basketball and although its role has changed
during that time, the NIT will continue to play a vital part in collegiate athletics.