Friday night's North Carolina-Indiana game at the Wells Fargo Center will be the third all-time NCAA Tournament meeting between the powerhouse programs. The first was one of the most famous games in college basketball history: the 1981 national championship game at the Spectrum.
It has been 35 years since that historic contest, which became just as renowned for events off the court as for events on it. From legendary Indiana coach Bobby Knight throwing an opposing team's fan in a trash can to Ronald Reagan being shot on the day of the title game, there was no lack of drama.
Here's a look back at how the Inquirer and Daily News covered that wild weekend.
Indiana punched its ticket to the Final Four by beating St. Joe's in the East Regional final. The game was played at IU's fabled Assembly Hall, giving even more of an advantage to a Hoosiers squad that was already a strong favorite. The Hawks, meanwhile, were a Cinderella underdog.
Ultimately, it was no surprise that Knight's team steamrolled St. Joe's, 78-46.
The late, great Phil Jasner was there for the Daily News:
Inquirer columnist Bill Lyon couldn't help praising Indiana:
North Carolina beat Kansas State 82-69 in the West Regional final to set up an all-ACC Final Four showdown with Virginia. The Cavaliers, led by superstar center Ralph Sampson, beat Brigham Young 62-48 in the South Regional final.
Stan Hochman covered the Tar Heels' win for the Daily News:
Bud Shaw was courtside for the Daily News at Virginia-BYU:
Indiana's opponent at the Spectrum was to be Louisiana State, which won the Midwest Regional. The Daily News' Ray Didinger watched the Tigers' triumph:
Once the Final Four was set, the excitement began to build.
The Inquirer's Gail Shister (yes, she was a sports writer back in the day) wrote a piece on an inside page highlighting the things to know about each of the teams. Notably, she included the hotel each team stayed at - information that would surely be kept a guarded secret today.
All four of the team hotels go by different names now than they did back then, though some are still recognizable.
Virginia stayed at a Marriott at City Avenue and Monument Road that has since been demolished and replaced by an office tower. (Hat tip to Pat McLoone and Laurie Conrad at the Daily News for helping me figure that out.)
North Carolina stayed at what is now the Sheraton at 36th and Chestnut in University City. It was a Hilton at the time.
Indiana stayed at the Bellevue-Stratford on Broad Street, which is now officially a Park Hyatt even though everyone still calls it the Bellevue.
LSU stayed at the Warwick on 17th Street just south of Walnut, near Rittenhouse Square. That's the only one of the four hotels that has kept its full historic name, though the word Radisson is now at the start of it.
When crunch time came at the end of the week, the teams weren't quite so public about their whereabouts. In fact, it seems some of them might have changed plans after the initial word got out. LSU, however, stayed in the city. As Phil Jasner wrote in the Daily News:
Although the Tigers were staying loose, it was clear that they were the underdogs against Indiana. The Hoosiers simply proved to be too much in a 67-49 triumph. LSU was left reeling, as Dick Weiss wrote in the Daily News:
In the other semifinal, North Carolina beat Virginia to reach the title game for the third time in Dean Smith's tenure. But the Tar Heels had yet to win a championship for their superstar coach. That was the big talking point, as the Inquirer's Danny Robbins wrote:
Philadelphia was buzzing throughout the Final Four, as happens every time the city hosts a major NCAA event. On the morning after the semifinals, a story inside the Inquirer's sports section captured some of that energy. You can read the many funny anecdotes in it here. This is one highlight:
Some of that buzz wasn't FOR the better, though. In the hours after Indiana's win over LSU, one over-enthusiastic Tigers fan approached Knight to congratulate him - and ended up being thrown in a trash can by Knight because of it. The Inquirer's Mark Wagenveld had the story:
Not surprisingly, this became the big story on the off day between games. On Sunday afternoon, Knight took to the stage for a press conference and fired back. George Shirk and the great Chuck Newman had the Inquirer's account of Knight's remarks:
Daily News columnist Tom Cushman, a self-confessed defender of Knight's vociferous ways, wrote that this time Knight had crossed a line:
The national title game took place on March 30, 1981. I'm sure many of you know that there was another major news event that day. It took place a few hundred miles south of South Broad Street, at 2:27 p.m. Eastern Time:
Back then, the Daily News was an afternoon paper, and the 9-star edition was the final version. There was just enough time left in the day to get the story into print in our old newsroom at Broad and Callowhill Streets.
Whether a "Stop the presses!" order was given has been lost to history.
It has not been lost to history, however, that there was a heated debate among officials over whether the championship game should be postponed. Ultimately, the decision was made just more than a half-hour before tipoff to play the game as scheduled. As the Inquirer's Lewis Freedman wrote:
Freedman also noted that "there was no consultation with NBC-TV," which broadcast the game nationally.
At least, that's what the official word was. Behind the scenes, there was plenty of speculation that NBC might have put a word or two in someone's ear.
Those suspicions were bolstered by remarks from Bryant Gumbel, the host of NBC's coverage, to the Inquirer in the hours before tipoff. Among the highlight quotes were these:
Bill Lyon wanted the game to be postponed:
So did Daily News columnist Stan Hochman:
A few pages over in the Daily News, Tom Cushman had a different perspective:
Most of the sellout crowd at the Spectrum wanted the game to happen, though they maybe weren't the most objective judges. Rich Hofmann, now the Daily News' sports editor, was tasked with surveying fans on the concourse. He was told this by one who had traveled up from Florida for the occasion:
(To think that back then, you could take a portable television into the arena with you. Then again, these days, we'd all have our phones out.)
In the end, the protests fell on deaf ears. The game was played, and Indiana took home its fourth national championship. Because of the shooting, there was no room to include the result on the Inquirer's front page:
In the sports section, Danny Robbins wrote the game recap:
The NCAA tournament final - which will be remembered as the one that didn't make a lot of difference in the overall scheme of things - was won by Indiana. The Hoosiers beat North Carolina, 63-50, in a game that may have seen more emotions loosened beforehand than in the aftermath of the IU runaway.
Phil Jasner wrote the Daily News' verdict:
Indiana and North Carolina met again in the NCAA Tournament in 1984. It was their first matchup since the '81 title game. But surprisingly, our coverage of the contest didn't include any mention of that. I suppose it wasn't necessary at the time.
The Hoosiers and Tar Heels have played five times since then, all in the regular season, most recently in 2012 in Bloomington.