The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs (The East)

We may not be much help in filling out your bracket. But throughout this week we’re going to bring you a _flossy take on March Madness: one interesting fact about each of the 68 teams in the tournament field. Today we're tackling the East region.

(1) Ohio State houses at least one museum that won’t bore anyone to tears: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The museum, which is named after late Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist Billy Ireland, houses nearly half a million editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, and manuscripts.

Not surprisingly, famous cartoonists love the museum. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s widow gave the museum a $1 million donation with a promise to match up to another $2.5 million in donations from others. One of the others who has donated? The Family Circus creator Bil Keane, who gave the museum a $50,000 gift.

(16) Texas-San Antonio has come a long way since 1970, when its earliest students attended classes in an office park. The school has grown to more than 25,000 undergraduates, recently completed more than $250 million in construction projects, and is preparing to transition to Division I FBS status in football in 2013. ESPN SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle is one of the Roadrunners’ most famous graduates.

(16) Alabama State was founded in 1867 and boasts a wide-range of notable alumni, including civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks. NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and Flavor of Love 2 winner Deelishis also attended ASU, which is located in Montgomery.

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(8) George Mason’s fans and students are surely pulling for the Patriots to make a deep run into the tournament that mirrors their incredible 2006 trip to the Final Four. The school’s admissions office might be rooting the hardest for Jim Larranaga’s squad, though. In the year following the Final Four campaign, GMU saw its applications for freshman admission shoot up by 20 percent. The school also said that it had to triple the number and size of its campus tours for prospective freshman to keep up with the sudden interest in all things George Mason.

(9) Villanova boasts the Liberty Bell’s “Sister Bell,” a replacement ordered after the original bell cast at the foundry cracked. When the first bell cast from the Sister mold was damaged in a fire set by rioters in 1844, a new one was cast and sent to Villanova for safekeeping. It now sits quietly among students studying at Falvey Memorial Library.
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(5) West Virginia has produced a handful of professional basketball players, including NBA icon—and we do mean icon—Jerry West. After leading the Mountaineers to the 1959 national championship game, West was the second overall pick of the 1960 NBA draft and a 14-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Lakers. Alan Siegel, who designed the NBA’s ubiquitous red, white and blue logo in 1969, says that he used a photograph of West dribbling the ball with his left hand as the model for the silhouetted player in the logo.

(12) The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been known as the Blazers since the nickname was the winning entry in a name-the-team contest sponsored by the school’s student newspaper in 1977. The meaning of the nickname is unknown, though some have speculated that it was a reference to UAB’s trailblazing medical school. (In 1960, UAB faculty member Dr. Basil Hirschowitz became the first man to explore the human stomach with an endoscope.) A dragon, not a medical device, served as the school’s first mascot, but was later replaced by Beauregard T. Rooster and, for one year, a Viking. The dragon, named Blaze, returned for good in 1995.

(12) Clemson football coach John Heisman (of Heisman Trophy fame) was pretty shrewd. In 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech and immediately started partying upon their arrival. When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.
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(4) Kentucky got its royal blue team color from a piece of clothing. In 1891 the school needed a set of team colors before a football game against in-state rival Centre College. After some debate, the students settled on blue and yellow. (The yellow would change to white a year later.) Only one question remained: what shade of blue would they use? According to the school, football letterman Richard C. Stoll pulled off his royal blue necktie and suggested the squad use its hue. His classmates agreed, and UK had its blue.

(13) Princeton seniors have used “beer jackets” to protect their clothes from spillage, and, more recently, carry six-packs, as part of a tradition that began in 1912. The senior class votes on a design for the jackets, which are distributed in the spring before commencement every year. The early jackets were made of white denim to hide any beer foam that spilled on them, while more recent designs have been made of black canvas and feature plenty of spacious inside pockets. Talk about the perfect tournament-watching accessory.
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(6) Xavier actually has two mascots. D’Artagnan the Musketeer has been around since 1925; the idea of using a French musketeer came about because the school had strong ties to French culture in its early days. The other mascot, the Blue Blob, has a more mysterious back-story. The school may have developed the Blue Blob because the heavily armed D’Artagnan terrified small children, but others claim that the school won the Blue Blob as part of a Skyline Chili promotion in the 1980s.

(11) Marquette offers its students a pretty rock-and-roll living opportunity. Some lucky Marquette sophomore is sleeping in a room where the Beatles once crashed. The Fab Four played to a packed house at the Milwaukee Arena on September 4, 1964, before spending the night at the Coach House Motor Inn. In 1980 Marquette needed more space to house undergrads, so the school bought the hotel and converted it into a dorm called Mashuda Hall. There’s still a bit of debate about which rooms actually housed the Beatles, but the school’s website says that the common belief indicates it’s somewhere on the seventh floor.
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(3) Syracuse’s giant football and basketball stadium, the Carrier Dome, gets its name from heating and cooling leader the Carrier Corporation, which plunked down a $2.75 million naming gift to help with construction during the late 1970s.

(14) Indiana State also gets in on the Hoosier State’s racing spirit. Since 1970 the school’s annual spring week has included a tandem bicycle race. Coed mixed pairs participate in the race, which is nowhere near as silly as the campus’ other racing tradition: a 10-lap race around the quad on tricycles. The trike race dates back to 1963.
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(7) Washington's teams used to be called the Sun Dodgers, which was the name of a college magazine that had been banned from campus. School officials weren't wild about the name, so in 1921 a committee set out to pick a new one. The committee narrowed the field down to two options: Malamutes and Huskies. According to GoHuskies.com, those names were selected because of Seattle's proximity to the Alaskan frontier. The Huskies nickname was officially adopted on February 3, 1922.

(10) Georgia became the first university in the United States to be established by a state-supported charter when a 1785 act by the General Assembly incorporated the school. More than 200 years later, Georgia became the first university in the world to feature a school devoted specifically to the study of ecology. The Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology, named for the late UGA professor who wrote the first textbook on the subject, opened in 2007.
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(2) UNC may not have won a title last year, but the Tar Heels were #1 in one important poll—the Forbes 2009-10 list of college basketball's most valuable teams. UNC's hoops squad was valued at $29 million, up 12 percent from the previous year. Rounding out the top five: Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Illinois.

(15) Long Island is just the team for you if you enjoy a good talkie. Until 2005 the Blackbirds played their home games in Brooklyn’s Paramount Theatre, which happened to double as the first theater ever designed for talking pictures. The 4,124-seat venue opened in 1928 and showed movies and hosted concerts until LIU bought it and converted it into an arena in 1962. Some pretty huge names played concerts at the venue before it closed, including Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles.

The place actually kept rocking even after LIU turned the theater into a hoops venue. The school left the original Wurlitzer organ in the building and would fire it up for games.

Ethan Trex, Stacy Conradt, Meg Evans and Jason English also contributed to today's bracket. See Also: The Southwest and The Southeast.

Remembering Tom Dempsey, the Toeless NFL Kicker Who Set a 43-Year Field Goal Record

Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

On April 4, 2020 former NFL legend Tom Dempsey—who set a field goal record with the New Orleans Saints nearly 50 years ago—passed away in New Orleans at the age of 73. It has been reported that Dempsey, who has been battling Alzheimer's disease and dementia since 2012, contracted coronavirus in March and his death was the result of complications from COVID-19. Read on to learn more about Dempsey's remarkable life.

 
 

Things weren't looking good for the New Orleans Saints on the evening of November 8, 1970, during a televised game against the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium. Though Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer had managed to connect with receiver Al Dodd on a 17-yard pass that stopped the clock, New Orleans was still down 17-16 with just two seconds left in the game. Worse yet, they were on their own 37-yard line—leaving 63 yards between them and the end zone.

Saints head coach J.D. Roberts, who had only been hired the week before, huddled with offensive coordinator Don Heinrich to quickly consider their options. There weren’t any. Suddenly, kicker Tom Dempsey, who had joined the team the year before, materialized. “I can kick it,” Dempsey told Roberts.

Dempsey would later recall that he didn’t know exactly how far the ball had to travel or that it would be an NFL record if he nailed it. If he had, he said, maybe he would’ve gotten too nervous and shanked it. But kicking the ball was what Dempsey did, even though he was born with only half of a right foot.

Heinrich sighed. There was no other choice. “Tell Stumpy to get ready,” he said.

 

Dempsey was born on January 12, 1947, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later moved with his family to California. As a student at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, California, Dempsey appeared unbothered by the congenital defect that resulted in a partial right foot and four missing fingers on his right hand. Dempsey wrestled and ran track. In football, he used his burly frame—he would eventually be 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weigh 255 pounds—to clobber opposing players as an offensive lineman. When coaches wanted to send opponents flying, they called in Dempsey.

After high school, Dempsey went on to attend Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, California, where he played football as a defensive end. At one point, when the team was in need of a kicker, the coach asked his players to line up and do their best to send the ball in the air. None kicked harder or farther than Dempsey, who became the kicker for the team and performed while barefoot, wrapping the end of his foot in athletic tape.

Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe is pictured
Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe.
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Playing at Palomar prepared Dempsey for a dual role as both lineman and kicker. But his strength, which made him so formidable on the field, occasionally got him into trouble on the sidelines, and he would eventually be kicked off the Palomar team for punching one of his coaches. After the incident, Dempsey tried out for the Green Bay Packers but found the physicality of professional players a little too much for him to handle. Rather than get into on-field collisions as an offensive lineman, he decided to focus solely on the aptitude he seemed to have for kicking. He eventually earned a spot on the San Diego Chargers practice squad in 1968. There, head coach Sid Gillman decided to encourage his choice of position—with some modifications.

Gillman enlisted an orthopedist to help develop a special leather shoe for Dempsey to wear. The boot had a block of leather 1.75 inches thick at one end and was mostly flat. Instead of kicking it soccer-style, as most players do today, Dempsey was able to use his leg like a mallet and hammer the ball with a flat, blunt surface.

The shoe, which cost $200 to fabricate, came in handy when Dempsey joined the Saints in 1969. He made 22 out of 41 field goals his rookie year and found himself in the Pro Bowl. But the 1970 season was comparatively dismal, and the Saints were holding a 1-5-1 record when they met the Detroit Lions on that night in November.

With two seconds left, “Stumpy” (Dempsey found the nickname affectionate rather than offensive) trotted onto the field. At 63 yards, he would have to best the then-record set by Baltimore Colts kicker Bert Rechichar in 1953 by seven yards.

No one appeared to think this was within the realm of possibility—you could almost hear a chuckle in CBS commentator Don Criqui's voice when he announced that Dempsey would be attempting the feat. Even the Lions seemed apathetic, not overly concerned with attempting to smother the play.

The ball was snapped by Jackie Burkett and received by Joe Scarpati, who gave it a quarter-turn. Dempsey remembered advice once given to him by kicking legend Lou “The Toe” Groza: Keep your head down and follow through. He took a step toward the ball and swung his leg like a croquet mallet, smashing into the football with a force that those on or near the field compared to a loud bang or a cannon. It sailed 63 yards to the goal post, which at the time was positioned directly on the goal line, and just made it over the crossbar.

Below, the referee threw his hands in the air to indicate the kick was good, punctuating it with a little hop of excitement. Dempsey was swarmed by his teammates and coaches. Don Criqui’s attitude in the booth quickly switched from amusement to incredulity. The Saints had won, 19-17.

“I don’t believe this,” Criqui exclaimed.

Neither could fans. In an era before instant replay, ESPN, or YouTube, you either caught Dempsey’s game-winning play or you heard about it at work or school the next week. Owing to its fleeting existence in the moment, schoolyards and offices filled with stories about how Dempsey’s boot may have somehow been augmented with a steel plate or other modification to boost his kicking prowess.

No such thing occurred, though that didn’t stop criticism. Tex Schramm, an executive with the Dallas Cowboys and chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, thought the shoe was an unfair advantage that allowed Dempsey to smash the ball like a golf club hitting a dimpled target. In 1977, the NFL instituted the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” which mandates that anyone and everyone has to wear a shoe shaped like a full foot. There would be no more allowances for special orthopedic shapes.

Dempsey appeared to take it all in stride. Shortly after his victorious kick, he received a letter from President Richard Nixon congratulating him on his inspirational demonstration. Immediately after the game, police officers went in to congratulate him by handing him cases of Dixie beer. Dempsey's girlfriend (and future wife) Carlene recalled that he didn’t come home for days due to rampant partying. When he finally settled down, they got married.

 

Dempsey spent a total of 11 years in the NFL, playing for the Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Oilers, and finally the Buffalo Bills. In total, he made 159 field goals out of 258 attempts. For the next several decades, he would work as a salesman in the oil industry and manage a car lot before retiring in 2008 and settling down back near New Orleans. Over the years, Dempsey made several appearances at autograph shows, where he was regularly peppered with questions about the one kick that defined his career.

Almost as amazing as the kick was its attrition in the record books. While several other men managed to tie Dempsey’s record, it wasn’t until Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicked a 64-yard field goal on December 8, 2013, that it was finally broken—almost 43 years to the day. Some observers note that most of these notable field goals took place in Denver, where the air is thin and presumably more hospitable to kicking for distance. Dempsey managed it in New Orleans—and without toes.

Curiously, Dempsey’s legendary play was actually foreshadowed one year earlier. On October 5, 1969, he kicked a 55-yard field goal in Los Angeles. That was just one yard shy of the record he would obliterate the following year.

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

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