Tom Jernstedt, 'Father of the Final Four' and Hall of Famer, Dies at Age 75

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2020

NCAA adminstrator Tom Jernstedt speaks during his enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Tom Jernstedt, who is known as the "Father of the Final Four" and was a key figure in helping build the men's NCAA tournament to what it is today, died at the age of 75.

The Associated Press and Matthew VanTryon of the Indianapolis Star reported the news.

"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."

Jernstedt was a backup quarterback for the Oregon Ducks from 1964 to 1966, but he is best known for his time as an NCAA executive. He held that position from 1972 to 2010.

VanTryon provided a timeline for Jernstedt's impact on the NCAA men's tournament, noting he ran the event for the first time in 1973. From there, the field expanded to 32 teams two years later as the NCAA adopted the term "Final Four."

The field expanded to 48 teams in 1982 and the familiar 64 teams by 1985.

What's more, the NCAA agreed to an 11-year deal worth more than $6 billion with CBS to air the event in 1999. By 2010, the NCAA had a 14-year deal worth $10.8 billion with CBS and Turner Sports for the same purpose.

Villanova coach Jay Wright and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay were among those who reacted to Jernstedt's death:

It wasn't just basketball he impacted as he served on the first College Football Playoff selection committee in 2013.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock tweeted his condolences, as well:

Jernstedt was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 for his contributions to college basketball.