Jim Nantz explains why he stopped awarding ties to players at March Madness


For years, at the conclusion of March Madness, Jim Nantz would award his tie to a player of his choosing from the winning team. Nantz’s symbolic passing of the torch has been recognized as an annual rite of passage in college hoops, putting a bow on the season (much like the obligatory “One Shining Moment” montage) both literally and figuratively. But the longtime CBS announcer, unbeknownst to many, quietly scrapped this tradition years ago, citing 2016’s title game between North Carolina and Villanova as the last time he distributed one of his iconic ties (Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono was that year’s recipient).

“It was meant to be a quiet gesture that no one would know about. But once it got hijacked, I thought, you know what? I'm not going to put that burden on anyone where a media guy's going to come up and make fun of it and belittle the kid and take that moment away from him,” Nantz told Robbie Hummel and Jeff Goodman on The Field of 68 podcast earlier this week. “So I opted not to do it anymore.”

Nantz gave his first tie to Florida’s Corey Brewer during the Gators’ title run in 2007. Brewer’s father was in poor health at the time, which prompted Nantz to think of his own father and what that relationship meant to him. “The tie was always symbolic to me in a lot of ways,” explained Nantz. “My dad taught me how to tie a tie. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people listening to this. And every time I try to put that knot together and try to get it right, I think about my dad standing behind me, looking into a mirror and trying to tie my tie for me. It’s almost a comfort zone for me, getting ready for my broadcast, thinking of my dad, putting my tie on.”

After learning how much the gesture meant to Brewer, who kept the tie in his locker for the remainder of his Florida career, Nantz decided to keep doing it, seeking out players who “went above and beyond.” But when fans began to mock him, Nantz decided the tradition had run its course. “I lost control of the narrative. It turned out to be a victim of social media, disbelievers and snarky-ism,” said Nantz. “It’s too bad because it was meant to be a good-hearted gesture to a kid that was doing things the right way.”

Nantz will be back in the CBS broadcast booth this weekend for the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, an event he’s been covering since 1989.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Tim Nwachukwu, Getty Images