Indiana State Throws It Back With Celebration of 1979 Final Four Team


(*Old Hat is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

If you asked 10 people to point out Terre Haute, Indiana on a map, chances are maybe one of them would be able to do it.

Meanwhile, if you asked 10 people who Larry Bird is, chances are more than half would be able to tell you.  

Nestled in Terre Haute, Indiana State University was once home to Larry Bird and an improbable run to the NCAA Final Four.

Averaging nearly 30 points per game that season, his last at Indiana State, Bird helped lead the Sycamores to an undefeated season and a national title-game matchup versus a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans team. Although the Sycamores would fall to the Spartans, to date, they are the only team to advance that far in their first-ever NCAA appearance.

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Forty years later, the university and its athletic department are paying homage to the team through a season-long celebration aptly named “Forty Years Since March Went Mad.”

Working with Old Hat, the two came up a slogan, social media strategy, and logo. Throughout the season, the staff will republish game-by-game recaps — complete with box scores — through various social media outlets to “relive” the legendary season. This was an idea that came from Associate AD of Communications and Digital Content Ace Hunt, who received inspiration from Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary who “live tweets” what happened on 9/11 every year.

“I thought doing something similar for the ‘78’-79 team would be really cool, so over the course of the season, we will be ‘live tweeting’ that season by sharing the press releases, news articles, and photos from just about every day of that year.”

Given the time that has passed, Hunt and his student workers had to rely on some of his good friends who just happened to save everything from photos and magazine covers of Bird to game programs, newspaper clippings and ticket stubs.

While the department could have chosen just one game to honor the team, Hunt felt that not only should the celebration impact the players themselves, but their families and the community of Terre Haute, many of which include blue-collar workers who were “galvanized” by the team.

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The department is also lucky in the fact that everyone from the team, including the head coach, is still alive and well.

“We’re going to take full advantage of it and really put on a celebration not only for them but for their families,” added Hunt. “They all have kids and grandkids, none of whom have seen those games because they weren’t alive. We want to put on a celebration for them that those guys really deserve.”

The celebration includes a game against Loyola, last year’s NCAA Cinderella story, that will feature a reunion of everyone from that team, including the coaching staff. For the game, the team will don throwback baby blue jerseys designed specifically for the anniversary by Under Armour.

Working with Old Hat, the goal around the project was to rekindle the memories of a team and a season that has become somewhat of an urban legend for those who didn’t grow up in that era.

Bringing the celebration full circle, Hunt is focused on taking advantage of having everyone together again in order to capture video content that will be able to live on to the 100th anniversary of the team, even if he and anyone on the team isn’t there to celebrate.

“The most important goal in this whole thing for us is to get some of the grainy footage from that year into HD format and to capture in-person interviews with the players. We want to actually have those guys on camera so regardless if it’s the 50th, 60th, 70th, or even 100th anniversary, people will have the chance to relive the season through their eyes.”  

(*Old Hat is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)