Hoops exec known as ‘Fa­ther of the Fi­nal Four’

Chicago Sun-Times - - CLASSIFIED­S -

INDIANAPOL­IS — Tom Jern­st­edt, a mem­ber of the Nai­smith Hall of Fame for his con­tri­bu­tions to col­lege bas­ket­ball and the NCAA Tour­na­ment, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sun­day that Mr. Jern­st­edt died this week­end.

Nick­named “Fa­ther of the Fi­nal Four,” Mr. Jern­st­edt has widely been cred­ited with trans­form­ing the NCAA Tour­na­ment into the bil­lion-dol­lar March Mad­ness it has be­come to­day.

“A decade af­ter his de­par­ture from the NCAA, Tom Jern­st­edt’s fin­ger­tips re­main vis­i­ble dur­ing March Mad­ness and the Fi­nal Four,” NCAA se­nior vice pres­i­dent Dan Gavitt said in a state­ment. “His in­no­va­tion and su­perb abil­ity to de­velop re­la­tion­ships turned a bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment into a three-week phe­nom­e­non that be­came a global event.”

A for­mer backup quar­ter­back, Mr. Jern­st­edt worked his first Fi­nal Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tour­na­ment from 25 teams to the 68, any­thing-can-hap­pen bo­nanza held every spring.

Mr. Jern­st­edt helped the NCAA in­crease its tele­vi­sion con­tract from just over $1 mil­lion to more than $10 bil­lion when he left in 2011. He served as pres­i­dent of USA Bas­ket­ball, was a mem­ber of the Col­lege Foot­ball Se­lec­tion com­mit­tee and was in­ducted into the Nai­smith Hall of Fame as a con­trib­u­tor in 2017.

“Tom Jern­st­edt was a hum­ble and un­sung ste­ward of the game,” John L. Dol­eva, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame, said in a state­ment. “Un­der his di­rec­tion, the NCAA Men’s Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment grew into a phe­nom­e­non that brings col­lege bas­ket­ball fans to­gether on a global scale. He will for­ever be re­mem­bered as the Fa­ther of the Fi­nal Four and one of the most re­spected lead­ers in bas­ket­ball.”

Mr. Jern­st­edt es­tab­lished him­self as a team leader de­spite be­ing a backup quar­ter­back at Ore­gon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events man­ager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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