The term “March Madness” was popularized by H.V. Porter, who has some sweet hair (that’s him in the picture).
The phrase had nothing to do with the NCAA – it actually involved a high school tournament sponsored by the Illinois High School Association, which Porter belonged to.
In 1939, Porter wrote an essay called “March Madness” for the IHSA’s magazine. The first time “March Madness” was used to describe the NCAA tournament was in 1982, when a CBS sportscaster used it.
Even though one of their own coined the term, the IHSA didn’t own the trademark “March Madness.” You might suspect the NCAA snapped it up first – nope. By the time anyone thought to go after a trademark in the 1990s, it had already been taken by a television company. The IHSA bought the rights and then tried to sue the NCAA for using the term, but the United States Court of Appeals decided it was a dual-use trademark, so both parties are able to legally use the phrase.