March 16, 2010: There is no doubt that consumers who follow the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball tournament consume a lot of food. In fact, Papa John’s, the "official pizza of NCAA March Madness," said it expects to sell upwards of 10 million pizzas during the NCAA tournament, "with sales ramping up as lower-seeded teams advance."
Rival Pizza Hut also envisions hordes of hungry college basketball fans from the lowest of the seeded teams. The pizza company said it plans to give away 10,000 slices of pizza - that's 1,250 pies at eight slices a pie - if the ultimate upset involving the the bottom-feeding teams should happen.
Since 1985, 100 men's college basketball teams earning the No. 16 seed have faced No. 1 seeds, and all 100 have lost. But if history happens this week and a No. 16 earns a victory over a No. 1, Pizza Hut said "students [at the winning school] can get ready for a pizza party the likes of which they've never seen."
Pizza Hut said the 10,000 free slices of pizza would be available to students with proof they are currently enrolled and active faculty members at the lucky No. 16 seed school before the academic year concludes. Pizza Hut said that full redemption details would be publicized at the winning school after the upset.
The schools now under pressure to do their share for the 10,000 slices are: East Tennessee State, which plays No. 1 Kentucky in the East on March 18; Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which faces No. 1 Duke in the South on March 19; Lehigh, which takes on No. 1 Kansas in the Midwest on March 18; and Vermont, which faces No. 1 Syracuse in the West on March 19. Of the four No. 16s, Vermont might seem the favorite to earn the pies with a 25-9 record, the best among the quartet of lowest-seeded schools.
"It's one game, one night, and anything can happen," Lehigh head basketball coach Brett Reed told reporters after learning his No. 16 seeded team would face No. 1 Kansas. "Kansas is a tremendous team with a rich and prestigious tradition. But they pull their pant legs up just like we do."
And the added lure of 10.000 slices of pizza might make it a game to remember.
"An underdog upset of this level would become a favorite in sports history and should be awarded with free pizza from Pizza Hut," Brian Niccol, CMO for Pizza Hut, a division of Yum! Brands, said in a statement.