By Barry Janoff
March 7, 2017: In 1954, On The Waterfront won the Academy Award for Best Picture, its leading man, Marlon Brando, won for Best Actor; I Love Lucy was TV’s top-rated show; and Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Chan, Denzel Washington, Ron Howard and Christie Brinkley were born.
It also was the first year of the Ivy League Conference, which includes Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale.
Since then, the world of entertainment and sports has undergone massive changes. But until this year, something remained unchanged: The Ivy League Conference has never held a post-season basketball tournament, making it the last NCAA hoops conference to do so, electing instead to award its automatic bids to the NCAA men's and women's tournaments to its regular-season champions.
That all changes this weekend with the 2017 Inaugural Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, being held March 11-12 in the Palestra in Philadelphia.
Not only will the top four men’s and women’s teams vying for the opportunity to play in the NCAA Div. I Men’s and Women’s Tournaments be there, but so will a bevy of marketing partners.
Citizens Bank has signed on as presenting sponsor, joining a marketing roster that also includes Coca-Cola, Under Armour and Nike.
The deals were handled by JMI Sports, the official marketing rights agency for the Ivy League. Financial details were not released.
Games will air on TV on ESPN platforms, with the men’s championship on ESPN2 and the women’s championship on ESPNU. Westwood One, the exclusive network radio partner for the NCAA, will cover all games live.
"We’re excited to have Citizens Bank as the presenting partner of the Inaugural Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments," said Robin Harris, the Ivy League's executive director. "Both the Ivy League and Citizens Bank balance history and tradition with modern success, and we can think of no better sponsor for the first-ever basketball tournaments."
The men’s tournament will see Princeton, which finished first in the regular season (14-0 Conference 20-6 Overall) versus No. 4 Penn and No. 2 Harvard face No. 3 Yale.
Princeton enters the tournament on a 17-game winning streak; the university is also the all-time Ivy League leader with 24 NCAA Tournament Bids
The women’s tournament features Penn, which finished first in the regular season (13-1/20-7) against No. 4 Brown; and No. 2 Princeton versus No. 3 Harvard.
The decision to finally hold a post-season tournament "creates a landmark event during March Madness for our basketball student-athletes to anticipate while they are in school and to cherish throughout their lives after graduation," according to Harris.
As presenting sponsor, Citizens Bank will have a "significant presence throughout all facets" of the inaugural Ivy League Basketball Tournaments, including TV, radio, on-site in the Palestra and digitally on the Ivy League Digital Network.
As part of the agreement, Citizens Bank will also be an official partner for the Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Tournaments, scheduled for May.
"Citizens Bank is thrilled to partner with the Ivy League for what is sure to be a memorable weekend of basketball," Beth Johnson, CMO and head of consumer strategy for Providence, RI-headquartered Citizens Bank, said in a statement. "We are proud to support bringing great sporting events to the communities where we live and work, and there is no better venue to host this weekend’s games than the storied Palestra in Philadelphia."
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