Game of the Century (college basketball)

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Game of the Century
College Basketball
Houston Cougars vs UCLA Bruins, Game of the Century, 1968.png
12 Total
UCLA 4326 69
Houston 4625 71
DateJanuary 20, 1968
LocationHouston, Texas
United States TV coverage
NetworkTVS Television Network
AnnouncersDick Enberg and Bob Pettit

In men's college basketball, the Game of the Century was a historic National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) game between the Houston Cougars and the UCLA Bruins played on January 20, 1968, at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. It was the first NCAA regular season game broadcast nationwide in prime time. It established college basketball as a sports commodity on television and paved the way for the modern "March Madness" television coverage.[1]


The UCLA Bruins were the dominant NCAA men's basketball program of the era, having won Division I championships in 1964, 1965, and 1967. Lew Alcindor of UCLA was a talented player who was credited with reviving interest in college basketball, with Bruin games selling out arenas.[2] Houston Cougars coach Guy Lewis wanted to prove his program's worth to his critics, so he decided to schedule UCLA. Houston and UCLA had met in the previous season in the semifinals of the 1967 NCAA Tournament. UCLA had prevailed against Houston 73–58, and won their 3rd NCAA championship.[3]

The game[edit]

Ted Nance, the sports information director for the University of Houston, put the schedule together.[4] UCLA sports information director J. D. Morgan talked Bruin head coach John Wooden into the game by explaining how great it would be for college basketball.[4] Nance put advertisements in the Cougar football programs touting the game as the "Game of the Century."[4]

The game was televised nationally via a syndication package through the TVS Television Network, with Dick Enberg announcing and Bob Pettit providing color commentary.[4] Morgan had insisted to TVS owner Eddie Einhorn that TVS use Enberg, the Bruins' play-by-play announcer.[5][6] Einhorn paid $27,000 for the broadcast rights on TVS.[7] TVS signed up 120 stations, many of which would preempt regularly scheduled network programming.[8] The basketball floor actually came from the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.[4]

The Bruins arrived in Houston with a 47-game, two-and-a-half-season winning streak. The Cougars were also undefeated since the last meeting between the two teams.

The first half between the AP Poll's No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Houston closed with the Cougars up by three points.[4] The second half saw the tension between the squads highlighted within the matchup of Houston's Elvin Hayes and UCLA's Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Hayes, a 6-foot-9 forward, was not directly matched against the 7–2 Alcindor, but he did block three of Alcindor's shots, and the crowd roared his nickname, "Big E."[4]

With two minutes remaining in the game, the score was tied at 69 after the Bruins' Lucius Allen made a pair of free throws.[5] Hayes took a shot and was fouled by Bruins reserve Jim Nielsen.[4] Hayes, playing with four fouls in the second half, scored two free throws. The Bruins still had time to score, but an attempted basket by Allen would not drop. On the last possession, UCLA's All-American guard Mike Warren committed a rare mental error deflecting out of bounds a pass meant for UCLA's star shooter Lynn Shackelford, who was unguarded in the corner.[4]

In the end, the Cougars pulled the upset, 71–69, ending the Bruins' 47-game winning streak.


Houston's Elvin Hayes is carried in a victory celebration on the Astrodome's floor

Up to that point, only NCAA post-season games had been broadcast nationally, so there was much skepticism regarding where the broadcast would take the non-profit organization's policy.[9] The broadcast drew a vast television audience in addition to the 52,693 fans who had filled the Astrodome for its first basketball game. Each school received $125,000 for the game, four times the 1968 NCAA tournament payout of $31,781.[7]

The January 1968 cover of Sports Illustrated depicted the game, with Hayes shooting over Alcindor. Alcindor—who had sustained an eye injury at a game against Cal a week earlier—had the worst performance of his college career.[10] It was one of only two times in his UCLA career that he shot less than 50% from the field.[7]

Three days after the game, UCLA starting forward Edgar Lacy quit the team.[11] Wooden had benched him after 11 minutes, and he never re-entered the game. Upset with Wooden's public comments implying that he did not want back into the game, Lacy quit the team.[12][13] "I've never enjoyed playing for that man," Lacy said of Wooden after quitting.[14] In 2008, Wooden stated, "I'm sorry I said that. It hurt him, and that's why he quit. I was very disappointed. Edgar was a fine boy."[12]

Neither Houston nor UCLA lost another game for the remainder of the regular season. The teams met again in the 1968 NCAA Tournament semifinals, with the then-No. 2 ranked Bruins winning 101–69 against the No. 1 Cougars.[3][15] Assistant coach Jerry Norman was credited by Wooden for devising the diamond-and-one defense that the Bruins used to contain Hayes, who was averaging 37.7 points per game but was held to only 10. UCLA advanced and defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 78–55 for the 1968 title.[16][17] Houston also lost the consolation game to Ohio State. Those games were at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, on the same floor used in the Astrodome game.[18]

The 1971 NCAA Tournament was held at the Astrodome following the success of the game and drew more than 31,000 spectators for both the semifinals and championship. The 1982 tournament was held at the Louisiana Superdome. Eventually, most Final Fours were awarded only to host cities with domed stadiums. Starting with the 1997 tournament, only domed stadiums have hosted the Final Four.[19]

UCLA and Houston played again in 1969 at Pauley Pavilion for the regular-season rematch. UCLA won 100–64.[20] UCLA won six more national championships under Wooden. Lewis led his Phi Slama Jama teams to three consecutive Final Fours (1982–1984), advancing to the national championship game in 1983 and 1984.[21]

In 2006, Hayes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor) and Wooden were inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame,[22] followed by Lewis in 2007.[23]


Previously, only NCAA post-season games were broadcast on national television. The "Game of the Century" proved that a national audience would watch college basketball games during the regular season. Furthermore, it was telecast not by a Big Three Network but rather by the independent TVS Television Network. In 1969, NBC became the first major network to broadcast the championship game, at a cost of more than $500,000. In 2008, the NCAA deal with CBS to televise the entire tournament was worth $545 million.[24][25]


  1. ^ Nguyen, Thuc Nhi - UCLA-Houston ‘Game of the Century’ still leaves impression 50 years later. Los Angeles Daily News, January 20, 2018
  2. ^ Smith, John Matthew. The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty That Changed College Basketball. United States: University of Illinois Press, 2013.
  3. ^ a b 2007-2008 UCLA Men's Basketball Media Guide - PDF copy available at pg. 61 Post Season Scoring Recaps
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Einhorn, Rapaport 2006.
  5. ^ a b Robertson, Dale (August 13, 2016). "Game of the century: UH's basketball victory over UCLA in the Astrodome stands the test of time". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  6. ^ Einhorn, Rapaport 2006, p. 51.
  7. ^ a b c Wizig, Jerry (January 20, 1988). "It's been 20 years since they've played The Game of the Century". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Ron Rapoport - 1968: Houston vs. UCLA at the Astrodome - The game that took college basketball to a new level. UCLA fell at the cavernous Astrodome and had its 47-game winning streak stopped. Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2008 link at
  9. ^ Wizig, Jerry - Madness began with one game. Houston Chronicle, The Home Court, March 26, 1995
  10. ^ Robyn Norwood - Game of the Century. Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1998
  11. ^ "Funeral in Downey today for UCLA player Edgar Lacey". Long Beach Press Telegram. April 8, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Norwood, Robyn (January 19, 2008). "Game of the Century". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 6, 2014.
  13. ^ Kirkpatrick, Curry (November 30, 1970). "Ucla: Simple, Awesomely Simple". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  14. ^ AP Report (January 29, 1968). "Bruin cage star Lacey quits in huff". The Press-Courier. p. 12. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  15. ^ Chapin, Dwight - How Wooden Stopped the Big E. Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1968; A1;
  16. ^ Esper, Dwain (March 25, 1968). "Bruins Hope Norman Stays". The Independent. Pasadena, California. p. 15. Retrieved July 22, 2015 – via access
  17. ^ Gasaway, John (June 7, 2010). "John Wooden's Century". Basketball Prospectus. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  18. ^ Einhorn, Rapaport 2006, p. 40.
  19. ^ Littlefield, Bill (April 2, 2016). "The Final Four's Complicated History With Domes". Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  20. ^ 2007-2008 UCLA Men's Basketball Media Guide - PDF copy available at pg. 122 Year by Year results
  21. ^ Phi Slama Jama: The greatest team to never win it all. NCAA Video, January 9, 2015
  22. ^ "Players & Legends | Hall of Fame". College Basketball Experience. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  23. ^ "Coaches | Hall of Fame". College Basketball Experience. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  24. ^ "CBS renews NCAA B'ball". CNN. November 18, 1999.
  25. ^ Al Carter - College Basketball: UH and UCLA, under the big top. San Antonio Express-News, January 19, 2008,


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