Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Grateful Dead Bracket Analysis

When the Grateful Dead came to campus, as they did at the University of Cincinnati on April 3, 1970, you never knew if unsavory characters like Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters might just show up as well.
The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament will get underway on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 in Dayton, OH. Most of America will have submitted their brackets by then, and the rest will have submitted them by Thursday, March 19, when the real round of 64 begins. While most of us have an easy time picking our favorites and downgrading those we think are overrated, it can be hard to make a judgement on every match up. Of course, defense and rebounding are critical in any tournament, and with the new hand-checking rules, 3-point shooting is more important than ever. Nonetheless, with dozens of variables, at a certain point, everybody has to decide how to weight various factors. Some people prefer to do detailed research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sun Belt Conference, while others focus on more subjective factors.

Thus, as a public service, this blog is presenting a list of 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament participants ranked with reference to how many times the Grateful Dead performed on campus. I am including off-campus sites if they were the regular home arena or stadium for the basketball or football team, and you are free to discount those appearances if you feel that is not relevant. However, I am not considering exceptional events where a local college team plays the big arena as a "home" team (for example, St. Johns University in Queens plays occasional home games at Madison Square Garden, and Pitt used to play at the Civic Center once in a while).

You can decide for yourselves whether or not you need to listen to the tapes to assess the appropriate Mojo of each participant. Should the 8/9 Midwest Region matchup between Cincinnati and Purdue be determined because the Dead played Purdue first, or because Ken Kesey showed up at Cincinnati? When North Carolina State (8) plays LSU (9) in the Eastern regional, should you listen to the July 6 '90 (NC St) and October 16 '77 (LSU) tapes to make your choice? Picking your bracket isn't all science, and this post will help you consider the Jerrymetrical factors in play in the 2015 Tournament.

  • Gambling is bad
  • All NCAA student-athletes play for the love of the game and to get an education, and the $6Billion that the Universities divvy up are kept from the players for their own good
  • Coaches only want what's best for the students and the institution, and only jump ship for higher pay if they've really, really thought about it and think it's for the good of the game

The Grateful Dead's first show at Providence Civic Center, home of the Providence Friars, was on September 15, 1973 (the prior night was canceled)
Providence College, Providence, RI (6th Seed, East Regional)
The home arena of the Providence Friars has always been the Providence Civic Center, which the Grateful Dead played on 19 occasions, from September 15, 1973 through September 9, 1987 . This is probably not who you expected at the top of the list, but that's why this post is such a service. The arena is currently The Dunkin Donuts Arena. Imagine the t-shirts--Dunkin With The Dead, America Runs On Jerry, Phriars for Phil, and on and on.

University Of Oregon, Eugene, OR (8th seed, West)
Not surprisingly, the Grateful Dead have played the University of Oregon 14 times. The very first time was at the tiny EMU Ballroom on January 30, 1968. Subsequently, they played three times at MacArthur Court, the basketball arena, and 10 times at the football stadium, Autzen Stadium. Oregon seems to have had the highest Deadheads-to-population ratio of any state.

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (11th seed, South)
UCLA is the only participant with a canceled Acid Test. Nonetheless, there were still six Dead shows at Pauley Pavilion, the basketball facility: Nov 21 1971, Nov 17 1973, Dec 30 1978, Nov 25 1979, June 29 1980 and Feb 21 1982. The 1973 event was one for the ages, and released as Dave's Pick Vol. 5.

The poster for the Grateful Dead's first concert at Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena at Duke University, on December 8, 1973. Coach K was in the United States Army at the time. 
Duke University, Durham, NC (1st seed, South)
Duke hosted a variety of fine Grateful Dead shows in the day. The band's first Duke show was a thinly attended show at Wallace Wade Stadium, the aged 40,000-capacity football facility. More legendary were 4 shows at the Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena, on Dec 8 1973, Sep 23 1976, Apr 12 1978 and Apr 2 1982. I believe the last show at Cameron was when Jerry and Bob switched their on-stage positions for good.

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY (4th seed, East)
The University of Louisville used to play their home games at Freedom Hall. The Dead played an epic show there on June 18, 1974, supposedly to a largely empty hall (parts appeared on Road Trips Vol. 2 #3). They also played Freedom on Apr 9 1989 and June 15-16 93. In between they played at Cardinal Stadium, the football stadium on July 6 1990. Cardinal Stadium was torn down, as Louisville is now a football power that can't be playing in a crumbling old minor league stadium, and the basketball team now plays in the larger KFC Yum! Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (7th seed, West)
Virginia Commonwealth was originally formed as a merger of medical and professional schools. While the school was officially created in 1968, the roots of its predecessor schools go back as far as 1838. VCU is part of the Virginia state university system, and has around 31,000 students. The school has been competing in Division 1 Men's Basketball since the early 80s. From 1971 to 1999, the home court of the VCU Rams was the Richmond Coliseum. The Grateful Dead played Richmond Coliseum four times in the early 80s (Oct 8 '83, Oct 6 '84, and Nov 1 and 2 '85), The November 1 '85 seems to have been a great one, and it was released as Dick's Picks Vol. 21.
update: commenter Steve H makes the point that "The Mosque", in Richmond, VA, is actually on the VCU campus. The Dead played a show there on May 25, 1977. The Mosque, now known as The Altria Theater (and previously as The Landmark Theater) was built in 1927 as a Shriners Hall. 

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (6th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead have played Southern Methodist University twice. The first time, they played a show at McFarlin Auditorium, on the SMU campus, on December 26, 1969. McFarlin Auditorium, capacity 2,386, was built in 1926 so that there would be a Chapel big enough for the entire student body. It was the third permanent building on the SMU campus, and it is still in regular use.

Among other things, it was the public debut of acoustic sets within the framework of a full Grateful Dead concert. The booking of this show has always struck me as odd, flying to Texas the day after Christmas to play a concert at a school that was closed for the holidays. Granted, they were on their way to a rock festival in Florida, and then to Boston for New Year's, but it still seems odd.

The Dead's second appearance at SMU was on October 15, 1977 at the Moody Coliseum. The Moody Coliseum is still the home arena of the Mustangs. It was built in 1956 and has a capacity of about 7000.

In December 1969, current SMU Mustang coach Larry Brown was a point guard for the Washington Caps, an ABA team that had moved from Oakland the year before (and would become the Virginia Squires the next year). In Fall '77, Brown was coaching the NBA's Denver Nuggets, starring David "Skywalker" Thompson and Dan Issel.

University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (7th seed, South)
The Iowa Field House was built in 1927. The Grateful Dead played there twice, on Mar 20 1971 and Feb 24 1973. The Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team moved out of the arena in 1983, into the Carver Hawkeye arena, but the Field House is still used for some events.
[update: I am informed that the Feb 24 '73 was probably at Iowa State, in Ames, IA. But--the band played August 10 '82 at the Iowa Fieldhouse, so it's still a double]

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (4th seed, West)
Chapel Hill fans had easy access to Dead shows in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte, so there wasn't really any need for UNC-CH shows. Nonetheless, when the Dean Smith Center was built in 1986, there were occasional concerts in the 20,000+ capacity venue. The Dead played a pair of shows on Mar 24-25 1993. UNC won the NCAA tournament shortly after, yet the Grateful Dead were not invited back. UNC would not win another title for 12 years, which is a long time in the minds of Tar Heel fans.

No eyewitnesses have reported whether Jerry, Phil, Bob and Vince got into all four corners of the stage and stalled during the jam.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Birmingham, Alabama (14th seed, South)
Although the University of Alabama at Birmingham is generally overshadowed by the massive football program at the flagship state university in Tuscaloosa. However, UAB is a large (18,000+) public institution in its own right, and it probably has more academic status than its larger and older sister. While UAB recently attracted attention for shutting down its football program, it has always had a surprisingly vibrant men's basketball program. From 1976 through 2008 the UAB Blazers played at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, capacity 17,000;

The Dead played two shows on April 4 and 5, 1995 at the BJCC, which is usually colloquially listed as the Birmingham Coliseum. The venue is now known as the Legacy Arena. The UAB Blazers currently play at the Bartow Arena, on campus.

University of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ (2nd seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played at the University Auditorium at the University of Arizona on Apr 11 1969, but I have been unable to determine what building that is or might have been. Like many schools, there has been so much construction in the last several decades that old facilities have either been completely re-purposed or simply demolished.

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (5th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead played double shows at the tiny Student Union Ballroom at the University of Utah on Apr 12 1969. Utah got a lot of good rock shows in the 60s, because touring rock bands could add an extra night there on the way to or from Denver, Kansas City or Phoenix. Universities also had entertainment budgets, so there was additional money to pay bands to play relatively small places.

No doubt the Purdue University Administration eagerly looked forward to the Grateful Dead concert at Memorial Union Ballroom on April 18, 1969.
Purdue University, Lafayette, IN (9th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead began their heavy run of college bookings in Spring 1969. One of the first was at Purdue, on Apr 18 1969. The band played at the Memorial Union Ballroom, rather than the basketball arena. The Purdue Memorial Union was built in 1924, but I don't know how big the ballroom was, probably not that large. Rick Mount was a junior at Purdue at the time, for those of you who care about such things.

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (8th seed, South)
The Aztec Bowl was a municipal stadium that also served as the home field for the San Diego State Aztecs football team. It was built in 1936, with a capacity of 12,500. Also on the bill were Canned Heat, Lee Michaels and then-unknown Santana. Part or all of the Dead's set was broadcast on a San Diego radio station.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH (8th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played a show at the Armory Field House at the University of Cincinnati on Apr 3 1970. The Armory Field House was built in 1954, and the basketball team moved to a bigger facility after the 1976 season. Oscar Robertson, The Big O himself, set his NCAA career scoring records at Armory. The facility is now a rec center.

Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
A commenter notes that I missed the Dead's show at the home court of the Michigan State Spartans. From 1940 to 1989, Michigan State played at Jenison Field House (they moved to the Breslin Center in 1989). The Dead played Jenison (capacity 10,004) on March 13, 1971. At the time, Earvin Johnson was in nearby Lansing, aged 11. I am not aware that he attended the Dead show, or wanted to (nor that his mother would have let him if he did).

The Grateful Dead played the University of Wisconsin Field House on March 14, 1971
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (1st seed, West)
The Grateful Dead were always popular in Wisconsin, but they only played one show on the U of WI campus, at the Fieldhouse on Mar 14 1971. The 10,600 capacity arena opened in 1930. It abuts the football stadium, Camp Randall Field, and is sometimes called Camp Randall Field House, though that isn't actually accurate.

{venue?}, Iowa State University, Ames, IA (3rd seed, West)
The Iowa State University was founded in 1858, and was made a Morrill Land Grant institution in 1862. Although details are murky, it appears that the February 24, 1973 show was at Iowa State, not the University of Iowa (Deadlists is apparently wrong, listing it as U. of Iowa). I'm not sure of the venue. If anyone can shed light on this critical matter, please Comment or email me before Thursday. Or whenever.

Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (10th seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played the surprisingly small Mershon Auditorium (2500 seats) at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH on Sep 30 1976. Ohio State's team was awful both the previous year (75-76) and the ensuing one (76-77).

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA (9th seed, East_
The Grateful Dead played the LSU Assembly Center, capacity 13,250, on Oct 16 1977. You would think that Baton Rouge, Louisiana would have been a great market for the Grateful Dead, but, well,  "too close to New Orleans," as the song goes. The venue is now known as The Pete Maravich Assembly Center, after "Pistol Pete" Maravich (b.1947-d.1988), LSU's most legendary player.

University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN (10th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the University of Indiana's basketball arena, Assembly Hall, on Oct 30 1977. The 17,000 capacity arena had been built in 1971. Knicks fans will note that both Mike Woodson and Glen Grunwald were both members of the 1977-78 Hoosiers. Isiah Thomas would not arrive until Fall 1979.

University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (3rd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, OK on Nov 11 1977. The arena is downtown, but Norman is a classic college town, so it may as well be on campus. The arena was built in 1975. It has a basketball capacity of 11,000, but the Dead probably used the 6500 seat concert setup.

University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA (5th seed, East)
If you're looking for a sleeper, look for the University of Northern Iowa. I don't know anything about the current UNI basketball team, but the Dead played a great show there on February 5, 1978. Iowa is cold, and Northern Iowa is really cold, so cold that the football facility is indoors. The UniDome, capacity about 15,00 houses both the basketball and football teams. It must have been something, stuck in a Cedar Falls winter, to have the Dead come and light the place up.

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (1st seed, Midwest)
It's hard to bet against John Calipari and the undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 2015 NCAA tournament. The Dead played Rupp Arena on Apr 21 1978. The band played Rupp shortly after UK had won their 5th NCAA championship in St. Louis.

The Dead played the University of Virginia basketball arena on September 14, 1982.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (2nd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the University Hall arena at the University of Virginia on Sep 14 1982. The 82-83 Cavaliers featured the 7'4" center Ralph Sampson, a truly great player before his knees went, and future NBA coach Rick Carlisle. The 8500 capacity arena had been built in 1965. It was used by the Cavaliers until 2006 when they moved into the John Paul Jones arena (named after a billionaire contributor, not the bass player).

University of West Virginia, Morgantown, WV (5th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown on April 10, 1983. The 14,000 capacity building opened in 1970, and is still the home court for the Mountaineers. The 1982-83 team was pretty good, going 23-8, but without any memorable NBA players. It doesn't matter, though, since WVU Mountaineer Jerry West's silhouette is on every NBA players uniform anyway.

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC (8th seed, East)
57,000 seat Carter-Finley stadium was built in 1966. The Grateful Dead played there on July 10 1990. Although constructed on university land, it is actually a few miles west of the North Carolina State University campus. NC State is just one county over from both Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, and it accounts for just as much local basketball madness as the other two. It has an equally long tradition as either of those schools, too, although it does not have their national profiles. NC State has a better football history than its rivals, but that's not saying much.

Jerry Garcia Bonus Picks
Villanova University, Villanova, PA (1st seed, East)
On his first Eastern tour without the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia played with Howard Wales at the Villanova University Field House on January 23, 1972. A tape is rumored to exist, but has never surfaced. By all accounts, Mahavishnu Orchestra's opening set blew away Garcia and Wales' noodling.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC (4th seed, South)
The Jerry Garcia Band played McDonough Gym on Nov 7 1981. The Hoyas that year were lead by future Knicks center Patrick Ewing and future Warriors guard Sleepy Floyd. Science has still not determined what a "Hoya" might be.