Longtime NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt helped create a path for the men’s college basketball tournament to go from a national championship event into a March Madness mega-event. On Saturday, he will be honored in Indianapolis when a downtown statue is unveiled in his honor.
Jernstedt, long dubbed the “Father of the Final Four,” died in September at age 75. His widow, Kris, has scheduled a “celebration of life” at 2 p.m. at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Jernstedt joined the NCAA in 1972, working his first Final Four in 1973. Over the next 38 years, the former college backup quarterback presided over multiple tourney expansions from 25 to 68 teams and helped increase television payouts from just over $1 million to $10 billion during his tenure.
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. Earlier this year, Indiana Sports Corp. also presented him posthumously with its national Pathfinder of the Year Award.
“Tom exemplified all of the qualities we look for in a Pathfinder Award winner,” Pacers CEO Rick Fuson said when making the announcement. “Part of Indiana Sports Corp’s mission is to positively impact the youth in our community and to recognize others that have a similar impact. Tom’s impact in the world of collegiate sports is exemplary and goes well beyond his work at the NCAA. He encompassed all that it means to be a servant leader and a community advocate.”