Jolly Facts About Every NCAA Tourney University: Today, West Region

  • Rick Chandler

It’s no Princeton Snowball War, but the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is still pretty epic. Come with us now as we explore more of the universities involved: today, schools of the the Western Regional.



Spokane, Wash., is home to the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Hoopfest, which is in its 28th season. It takes up 42 city blocks and includes an Elite Division, populated by ex-college players, and another division for average Joes. There’ also a parade and a big party and it brings in an estimated $46 million to the local economy.


South Dakota State


They invented Cookies and Cream ice cream. There’s fierce controversy over who invented this flavor, but South Dakota State makes the most scholarly claim to one of mankind’s greatest achievements, accomplished at their top secret dairy research and development facility in 1979. “Oreo ice cream, later named Cookies ‘n Cream, was invented by dairy plant manager Shirley Seas and dairy science students Joe Leedom and Joe Van Treeck.”

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Stephen Colbert and David Schwimmer attended Northwestern together, and both were members of an improv group called the The No-Fun Mud Piranhas.




Mr. Commodore was not always the Vanderbilt mascot. During a 1961 football game with Tennessee, a Vanderbilt freshman’s basset hound, named George, got loose and chased the Tennessee walking horse out of the stadium. George was immediately elected Vanderbilt’s official mascot and served for four years, until his untimely death in 1965. George perished when he tried to chase an ice cream truck and was tragically run over.

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Notre Dame


There’s real gold in Notre Dame football helmets. Many know that the Golden Dome — the top of the Main Building on campus — is covered in 23.9-karat gold leaf. When the dome occasionally has to be re-gilded, flakes of gold leaf can be found on the surrounding grass. The flakes are collected and used in the painting process for the football helmets.



princetonsnowball copy

Princeton used to have an epic snowball war each January, when hundreds of freshmen and sophomores squared off and hurled snowballs at each other for more than an hour. The photo above, from the New York Times (which covered the annual war) in 1892, shows typical injuries. The war was shut down by the administration at the turn of the 20th century.


West Virginia


It was a West Virginia University testing lab that uncovered the big Volkswagen diesel emissions scam. In 2015 it was revealed that Volkswagen was playing fast and loose with its diesel emissions software data — it seems that the company had knowingly programmed its emissions software to only engage when cars were being tested. It was a major violation of the Clean Air Act and Volkswagen executives were fired and the longtime CEO resigned — thanks to technicians at the West Virginia University lab commissioned by the International Council for Clean Transportation. Once WVU lab researchers discovered the findings were legitimate, they published findings in May 2014. The report went largely unnoticed, but it caught the eye of the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resource Board, each of which opened investigations.




The university radio station once broadcast a program so racist that an inmate at a nearby prison complained to the school. In March of 2015, Bucknell station WVBU-FM broadcast a program in which three students talked about race relations, with one using the n-word, another saying that black people “should be dead” and a third saying “lynch ’em.” The late-night broadcast was heard at nearby Lewisburg (Pa.) Federal Penitentiary, where a prisoner complained to a prison advocacy group, which contacted the school. All three students were eventually expelled.

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The University of Maryland has produced two Nobel Laureates (Raymond Davis Jr., Physics, 2002; Herbert Hauptman, Chemistry, 1985); a Fields Medal winner (Charles Fefferman) and a NASA astronaut (Judith Resnik). But their greatest graduate by far (to me) is Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. While a freshman at Maryland, Henson created Sam and Friends, a local puppet show broadcast on a Washington D.C. TV station whose debut on May 9, 1955 included the character Kermit the Frog.




Behold, the first Pizza ATM Machine. Yes, mankind’s latest advancement debuted at Xavier University in 2016, an this is how it works: You pay $9 for a pizza, which is automatically fetched from a refrigerator and transferred to the machine’s convection oven. And three minutes later: Mmmmm, delicious ATM pizza!

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Florida State


During the Civil War the school was called the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute, and male students fought officially as a school unit for the Confederacy. Then in 1883 the school received a State charter to become Florida University, later changed to the University of Florida. It kept that name until 1903, when it changed again, this time to Florida State University. The administration building is on Gallows Hill (pictured), the site of Tallahassee territorial hangings until 1839.


Florida Gulf Coast


Oh yes, they have a body farm. Florida Gulf Coast is a go-to school for Environmental Forensics, and has a facility in which bodies are kept in different states of decomposition so students can study them. There’s also a Death Investigator concentration, for future investigators for medical examiner’s offices. From the school web site: The forensic behaviorist track offers students an opportunity to learn how to analyze the psychological aspect of crime scenes, specifically pertaining to pedophilia.

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St. Mary’s


Beginning in 1997, St. Mary’s College officials were duped into believing that the school was going to receive $121 million from an anonymous donor, but it was really part of a real estate scam in which more than 100 investors lost $9 million. St. Mary’s never invested in any land deals, but school officials did OK the construction of a new a science building before any money materialized. College President Brother Craig Franz resigned when the scam was uncovered.




Hunter “Patch” Adams, the doctor/social activist portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1996 movie, attended Virginia Commonwealth and earned his doctorate degree there. Aside from his belief that the health of the individual cannot be separated from the health of the community and of the world, and founding the Gesundheit! Institute, Adams is noted for naming his two sons Atomic Zagnut “Zag” Adams and Lars Zig Edquist Adams.




A group of Arizona students have written a letter to local business owner Pete Turner, urging him to change the name of his restaurant, Illegal Pete’s. Soon to be located on University Blvd., Illegal Pete’s is a chain that Turner started in Colorado. Members of the UA chapter of Movimento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, or M.E.Ch.A., a student organization dedicated to uniting Chicano students for social justice causes, wrote in a letter to Turner that the name Illegal Pete’s, is offensive to the large population of Hispanic people in Tucson. In a petition, the organization demanded the restaurant have its named changed or not operate in Tucson. According to the Illegal Pete’s website, the first restaurant opened in Boulder, Colorado, in 1995.


North Dakota


The school’s nickname was originally the Flickertails, but because students soon realized their sports teams were named after a ground squirrel, they changed it to The Sioux in 1930, and then the Fighting Sioux in 1999. Then following 15 years of controversy, the name was changed to Fighting Hawks in 2015. See, I would have gone full circle and went with Fighting Ground Squirrels (that’s bad-ass), but it was a student vote and even though I have awesome ideas I’m just one man.

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