National Invitation Tournament
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2009)|
|Current season or competition:
2013 National Invitation Tournament
National Invitation Tournament
|No. of teams||32|
|Most recent champion(s)||Baylor|
|Most titles||6 – St. John's|
|Related competitions||NIT Season Tip-Off
NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship
College Basketball Invitational
CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament
|Founder||Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association|
The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is a men's college basketball tournament operated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. There are two NIT events each season. The first, played in November and known as the NIT Season Tip-Off (formerly the Preseason NIT), was founded in 1985. The second, the original NIT, is a post-season tournament played in March and April that is now called the NIT; it was founded in 1938. In both cases, the final rounds of the tournament are played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In both common and official use, "NIT" or "National Invitation Tournament" refers to the post-season tournament unless otherwise qualified. Both the pre- and post-season tournaments were operated by the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association (MIBA) up until 2005, when they were purchased by the NCAA.
The post-season NIT, started in 1938, pre-dates the NCAA Tournament by one year and is second in age only to the NAIA Tournament, which was founded by James Naismith in 1937. This first National Invitation Tournament was won by the Temple University Owls over the Colorado Buffaloes.
The NIT was originated by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association in 1938. Responsibility for its administration 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 comprised representatives from five New York City schools: Fordham University, Manhattan College, New York University, St. John's University and Wagner College. Originally all of the teams qualifying for the tournament were invited to New York City, and all games were played at Madison Square Garden.
The tournament originally consisted of only 6 teams, which later expanded to 8 teams in 1941, 12 teams in 1949, 14 teams in 1965, 16 teams in 1968, 24 teams in 1979, 32 teams in 1980, and 40 teams from 2002 through 2006. The tournament reverted to 32 teams for 2007.
|“||In the 1940's, when the N.C.A.A. tournament was less than 10 years old, the National Invitation Tournament, a saturnalia held in New York at Madison Square Garden by The Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, was the most glamorous of the post-season tournaments and generally had the better teams. The winner of the National Invitation Tournament was regarded as more of a national champion than the actual, titular, national champion, or winner of the N.C.A.A. tournament.||”|
In the tournaments' early years, some teams played in the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament for several reasons:
- The NCAA tournament committees selected only one team from each of eight nationally distributed regional districts leaving many highly regarded teams to play in the NIT.
- There was limited national media coverage of college basketball; therefore, playing in New York City provided additional media exposure for the teams, not only with the general public, but also among high school prospects in its rich recruiting territory.
- Some conferences, such as the Southeastern Conference, were segregated by race; therefore, hosting non-segregated games at their campus sites was problematic.
Several teams played in both the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same year, with Colorado and Duquesne being the first to do so in 1940. Colorado won the NIT in 1940 but subsequently finished fourth in the NCAA West Region. In 1944, Utah lost its first game in the NIT but then proceeded to win not only the NCAA tournament, but also the subsequent Red Cross War Charities benefit game in which they defeated NIT champion St. Johns at Madison Square Garden. In 1949, eventual NCAA champion Kentucky suffered elimination in the NIT before going on to win the NCAA, although Kentucky's performance was tainted by a gambling scandal that resulted from the team throwing its first round NIT game. In 1950, City College of New York won both the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in the same season, coincidentally defeating Bradley University in the championship game of both tournaments, and remains the only school to accomplish that feat.
The champions of both the NCAA and NIT tournaments played from 1943 to 1945. During World War II, the American Red Cross sponsored a postseason charity game between each year's tourment champions to raise money for the war effort. The NCAA champion prevailed in all three games.
The Helms Athletic Foundation retroactively selected the NIT champion as its national champion for 1938 (Temple), and chose the NIT champion over the NCAA champion once, in 1939 (Long Island). More recently, the mathematically based Premo-Poretta Power Poll published in the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia retroactively ranked teams for each season prior to 1949, with the NIT champion finishing ahead of the NCAA champion in 1939 and 1941. Between 1939 and 1950, when teams could compete in both tournaments, only DePaul (1945), Utah (1947), and San Francisco (1949) claim or celebrate national championships for their teams based solely on an NIT championship, although Long Island recognizes its selection as the 1939 national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
In 1950, the NCAA ruled that no team could compete in both tournaments, in effect indicating that if a team were eligible for the NCAA tournament, it had better play in it. Since then, the NCAA tournament has clearly been the major one, with conference champions and the majority of the top-ranked teams participating in it. Not until 1951, when the NCAA expanded to 16 teams, did the numbers of unique teams in the two annual tournaments exceed 19.
Nevertheless, the NIT continued to be regarded highly into the 1950s, with BYU claiming a national championship based on their 1951 NIT title. As late as 1970, Coach Al McGuire of Marquette, the 8th-ranked team in the final AP poll of the season, spurned an NCAA at-large invitation because the Warriors were going to be placed in the NCAA Midwest Regional (Fort Worth, Texas) instead of closer to home in the Mideast Regional (Dayton, Ohio). The team played in the NIT instead, which it won. This led the NCAA to decree that any school to which it offered a bid must accept it or be prohibited from participating in postseason competition.
As the NCAA over time expanded its field to include more teams, the reputation of the NIT suffered. When the NCAA eliminated the one-team-per-conference rule in 1975, the National Invitation Tournament had become merely a post-season showcase for good teams that did not make the NCAA grade.
NCAA takes control
In 2005, the NCAA purchased 10-year rights to the NIT from the MIBA for $56.5 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit, which had actually come to trial and was being argued until very shortly before the settlement was announced. The MIBA alleged that compelling teams to accept invitations to the NCAA tournament even if they preferred to play in the NIT was an illegal use of the NCAA's powers. (This rule was instituted after Al McGuire's aforementioned snub in 1970.) In addition, it argued that the NCAA's expansion of its tournament to 65 teams was designed specifically to bankrupt the NIT. As part of the purchase of the NIT by the NCAA, the MIBA disbanded for the 10-year duration.
The reputation of the NIT
The status of the post-season National Invitation Tournament as a "consolation" fixture has led to somewhat of a stigma in the minds of many fans. When teams with tenuous hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth lose away from home late in the season, opposing fans may taunt the players in the closing seconds with chants of "NIT! NIT!" This is done regardless of whether the home team is headed for the NCAA Tournament or not. Irv Moss, a journalist for the Denver Post, once wrote of such a taunt to a defeated team, "The three-letter word... was far more cutting than any four-letter word they could have hollered." 
Because the post-season NIT consists of teams that failed to receive a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT has been nicknamed the "Not Invited Tournament", "Never Important Tournament", "Nobody's Interested Tournament", "Needs Improvement Tournament", "No Important Team", "National Insignificant Tournament," or simply "Not In Tournament". It has also been called a tournament to see who the "69th best team" in the country is (since there are now 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament).
On the other hand, many low-seeded NCAA Tournament participants have proven unlikely to survive either tournament. Because 31 teams earn automatic bids in the NCAA Tournament (regardless of national ranking), a claim that the NIT determines the "69th best team" is at best colloquial, as one or more of those teams could be weaker than an NIT team.
David Thompson, an All-American player from North Carolina State, called the NIT "a loser's tournament" in 1975. N.C. State, which had been the previous year's NCAA champion, refused to play in the tournament that year, setting something of a precedent. In succeeding years, other teams such as Oklahoma State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, and Georgetown have declined to play in the NIT when they did not make the NCAA tournament. One such team was Maryland; after being rejected by the NCAA selection committee in 2006, head coach Gary Williams announced that 19-11 Maryland would not go to the NIT, only to be told that the university had previously agreed to use Comcast Center as a venue for the NIT. The Terrapins were eliminated in the first round by the Manhattan College Jaspers. In 2008, however, Williams announced that if invited, the Terps would play, because it would serve as a chance to further develop six freshman players on his squad and to give senior forward James Gist more exposure. At UCLA's famous Pauley Pavilion, there are individual championship banners for all 11 NCAA titles, various other banners touting many other NCAA and other tournament championships for other sports, but no mention of UCLA's 1985 NIT championship.
For other teams, however, the NIT is perceived as a step up in a program climbing from mediocrity or obscurity, and the response is more enthusiastic. For example, at the University of Tulsa, which won the NIT in 1981 and 2001, the Golden Hurricane's NIT "championship tradition" is viewed with pride and as a "lure" for players to join the program.
The NIT Season Tip-Off carries none of the postseason tournament's stigma, and is one of many popular season-opening tournaments held every year around the country (alongside events such as the Maui Invitational and the Great Alaska Shootout).
In the past, NIT teams were selected in consultation with ESPN, the television home of the NIT . The goal of the NIT was to sustain the MIBA financially. Therefore, schools selected to play in the NIT were often major conference teams with records near .500 that had large television fan bases and would likely have a respectable attendance for tournament games on their home court. The latter is one reason why New Mexico was invited virtually every year the Lobos had a winning season but failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Seeding considerations and home court advantage included the number of fans willing to show up to each game. In an effort to maintain some quality, a rule saying that a team must have a .500 record to qualify for the NIT was imposed. This prevented ESPN from suggesting major conference teams that finished at or very near the bottom of their conference standings but would likely garner good fan interest.
The NCAA announced a revamped selection process starting with the 2006 tournament. The main highlights are:
- Teams are no longer required to have .500 or greater records to receive bids. Even with this change, however, all teams receiving invitations for the NIT have had .500 or greater records.
- Similar to the automatic bids the NCAA Tournament grants for all conference tournament champions, all teams that won regular-season conference championships but failed to earn NCAA tournament bids are guaranteed places in the NIT.
In addition, the selection process has been made transparent. ESPN no longer had a hand in the selection of the teams. Instead, a committee of former NCAA head coaches, chaired by Newton, and including Gene Keady (Purdue), Don DeVoe (Tennessee), Rudy Davalos, Les Robinson (NC State), Reggie Minton (Air Force), John Powers and Carroll Williams among others, prepared a list of potential teams in advance.
ESPN continues to provide television coverage of the tournament. In 2011 the NCAA and ESPN agreed to a $500 million agreement through 2023-24 with for rights to cover championships in several sports, including the NIT; this compares with the 11-year, $6.2 billion TV contract with CBS for the NCAA tournament.
These changes are intended to encourage participation by good college teams that would rather stay home than play in the NIT – to make it the "Little Dance" instead of the "loser's tournament." Newton stated, "What we want to have is a true basketball event, a real tournament, one where there's no preconceived ideas of who gets to New York. We'd love to have great crowds, but this is not a financial consideration. We want good television coverage, but we're not going to play this thing for television and move games around."  Another consideration is that a number one-seeded team that goes to the semifinals will have three home games, which helps ticket sales.
Beginning with the 2007 tournament, the field for the NIT returned to the 32-team field used from 1980 through 2001, eliminating the eight "play-in" opening round where teams played to qualify for second round games against the top eight seeds. The tournament features four eight-team regions. The format did not affect the NIT's automatic bid to any regular-season conference champion that does not make the NCAA's field of 65 (since 2011, 68). Seven teams earned an NIT bid that way in 2006.
A new attendance record for a NIT game was set at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York on March 19, 2007 at the Syracuse-San Diego State game. Syracuse won the game 80-64 with the attendance total of 26,752. The old record of 23,522 was set by Kentucky in 1979.
Since 1969, there has been a Women's National Invitation Tournament. It began as an eight-team tournament in Amarillo, Texas, expanding to 64 teams by 2010. However, this is affiliated with the NIT in name only. It was not connected with MIBA and was not purchased by the NCAA.
Men's Post-season NIT Championships
- St. John's won the 2003 NIT title, but later vacated the title due to an ineligible player.
- Marcus Hatten of St. John's was the MVP of the 2003 tournament, but vacated the award with St. John's title.
- Minnesota won the 1998 NIT title, but later vacated the title and forfeited its entire 1997-98 schedule due to academic fraud.
- Kevin Clark of Minnesota was the MVP of the 1998 tournament, but vacated the award with Minnesota's title.
- Michigan won the 1997 NIT title, but later vacated the title and forfeited its entire 1996-97 schedule due to ineligible players.
- Robert Traylor of Michigan was the MVP of the 1997 tournament, but was later declared ineligible and his award vacated.
- NCAA buys tournaments, ends NIT litigation
- NIT's postseason field cut to 32 teams
- McPhee, John (1999). A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY. pp. 114–115. ISBN 0374526893.
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- Harrison, Don (2011). Hoops in Connecticut: The Nutmeg State's Passion for Basketball. The History Press, Charleston, SC. p. 54. ISBN 1609490835. "[John] Egan was the Providence College Friars' first "name" recruit, the player who arrived with the most acclaim. And he delivered as a sophomore [in 1959], averaging a team-high 20.9 points en route to propelling the Friars to a fourth-place finish in the then-prestigious National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden."
- Hurley, Bob (2013). Chasing Perfect: The Will to Win in Basketball and Life. Crown Archetype, New York, NY. p. 26. ISBN 030798687X. "That  St. Peter's team was the best team the school ever had. That team would go on to beat Duke in the National Invitation Tournament, back when the NIT was a big-time tournament."
- "NCAA Tournament History". Retrieved 2013-02-12 The tournament now determines the national champion, but that wasn't always the case. Until the 1950's, the NIT was just as big a tournament as the NCAA, and teams often chose to enter the NIT and bypass the NCAA tourney.
- Miller, Ralph (1990). "Ralph Miller: Spanning the Game." Sagamore Publishing LLC. p. 56. ISBN 0915611384. "Had the Aggies lost one, we would have been forced to have a playoff, and that was the problem. We had already accepted a bid to play in the  National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The tournament picture was much different then. There was no announcement of NIT teams following the selection of the NCAA field as exists today. The reason was that the NIT was still considered a premier tournament."
- Davies, Richard O. (2007). "Sports in American Life: A History." Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. p. 155. ISBN 9781405106474. "In 1938, [Ned] Irish invited 16 [sic] teams to compete in a new tournament that he called the National Invitation Tournament (Temple defeated Colorado 60-36 in the final), and it would be the premiere college basketball event for more than a decade. The following year, the NCAA responded by creating its own tournament, but it did not surpass the NIT as the premier postseason tournament until the 1950s."
- Peeler, Timothy M. (2010). "NC State Basketball: 100 Years of Innovation." University of North Carolina Press, The. p. 66. ISBN 9780807899700. "Despite winning the crown, the Red Terrors did not have a chance to play in the 1947 NCAA Tournament. Before the league’s event began, NC State’s newly named athletic director Jon Von Glahn was offered the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, contingent on [Everett] Case’s team winning the league tournament. Instead he chose a spot in the more prestigious National Invitation Tournament. So the NCAA District 3 selection committee gave the area’s bid to Carnevale’s team from Navy."
- Chansky, Art (2006). "Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops" Macmillan. p. 113. ISBN 0312327889. "The NCAA Tournament field had fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams since 1953, during which time the National Invitation Tournament remained prominent and, in the Northeast, actually bigger. ... The ACC, however, had an unwritten rule stemming from the point-shaving scandals of the last two decades that it would not send teams to the NIT. [Coach Victor] Bubas requested that the policy be changed in 1967, and it was. Duke accepted the ACC's first ever bid to the NIT, ..."
- Augustyn, Adam, ed. (2011). "The Britannica Guide to Basketball." Rosen Education Service. p. 17. ISBN 1615305289. "New York City basketball writers organized the first National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1938, but a year later the New York City colleges took control of the event. Until the early 1950s, the NIT was considered the most prestigious U.S. tournament ...”
- Roth, John (2006). "The Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball." Duke University Press. p. 272. "During its early years the [NCAA] tourney was overshadowed by the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in New York."
- Glickman, Marty (1999). "The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story." Syracuse University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0815605749. "The first big tournament I covered was the 1946 National Invitation Tournament, the NIT, at Madison Square Garden. It, not the NCAA, was the big college basketball tournament in those days. Later the NCAA flexed its muscles to dominate college basketball, and the NIT became little more than an also-ran tourney. In its time, though, the NIT was enormous."
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- "March Madness Swells as NCAA Pumps Up NIT Tournament", Bloomberg.com, March 14, 2006.
- Official Site of The National Invitation Tournament
- Bloomberg article on NCAA purchase and revamping of NIT