(CBS Local)- The Final Four has been played in Indianapolis seven times prior to this year’s edition in a few weeks. This year, the entire tournament takes place in Indiana and mostly in the city. CBS’ top broadcast team of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson have plenty of memories from the previous trips made to Indy and they took time to share those memories this week on a media call with reporters.
For Wolfson, the lead sideline reporter for CBS, she remembers the city fondly because it’s where her time with CBS really got started as an intern for the crew back in 1997 when Arizona cut down the nets in Indy.
“That was my first memory, I was still at the University of Michigan, it was my senior year and I got the opportunity to be a runner throughout March Madness I worked in the New York studios and then they sent me to Indianapolis and work the Final Four there,” said Wolfson. “My job there at the Final Four, besides doing odds and ends, my job was to cue the band. I remember wearing the headset, telling them when to play and when not to play, when we were going to commercial, not going to commercial.”
“Then, I got so excited because I was really a fan and I got so into it and for some reason, I took to this Arizona team and I rooted for them the whole way, no ties, I found them fun,” said Wolfson. “As soon as the game ended, I remember actually running onto the court celebrating with them and I think it was Bob Dekas at the time screaming in my ear, ‘Get off the court Tracy!’ I just got so caught up in the whole thing. That was my first memory in Indianapolis and its fun to come full circle now.”
For Hill, his best moment arguably came as a player in 1991 when his Duke Blue Devils upset the undefeated defending champion UNLV Runnin’ Rebels before beating Kansas in the title game. But, as a broadcaster, Hill’s first Final Four came in Indy back in 2015 when Duke hoisted the championship trophy.
“My first Final Four working with Jim, Tracy and Bill, obviously my alma mater was fortunate enough to win that year,” said Hill. “But to work with these individuals, to celebrate Jim’s 25th anniversary of calling the Final Four and experiencing St. Elmo’s Jim Nantz style, that was as memorable as you could possibly be.”
Speaking of Nantz, he’s been on the call for CBS at the Final Four since the first go round in Indy back in 1991. His favorite however? The magical run of Gordon Hayward and Butler to the championship game in 2010.
“My favorite was in 2010. I have a lot of memories in Indianapolis, I love that city and I’ve never hidden that,” said Nantz. “A lot of Final Fours including my first call in 1991 when Duke beat UNLV led by Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, they beat Kansas in the championship game. I’m going to fast forward to 2010, Butler is in the final. You could just feel there was something magical happening with that team throughout the ride to the championship game.”
“Now here they are, 6.2 miles their campus from Lucas Oil Stadium. On the day of the championship game, I drove to the campus, parked my car and walked the campus with the main goal to go to Hinkle Fieldhouse,” continued Nantz. “I was a big Hoosiers fan of the movie growing up. The music, there’s something about it that strikes a chord if you’re a basketball fan…Finally was able to find an open door and take a sneak peek at Hinkle and came back and called a game that came down to a half court heave by Gordon Hayward at the buzzer that very nearly dropped for what would have been the greatest finish not only in tournament history but in any sports championship history.”
Nantz, like Hill, has never had the opportunity to be inside Hinkle Fieldhouse for a game. He’ll get to check that off the career bucket list on Friday when the crew calls three games from their in the first round.
Finally, Raftery, known for his legendary “Onions!” calls throughout tournaments past, has fond memories of the ’91 and 2010 Final Fours as well.
“Jumping on both, the Duke game in 1991, I was not a Grant Hill fan obviously,” said Raftery with a wry smile for his broadcast partner. “We were very tight with the Hurley family so it was very nice to see that one of course. And Jim mentioned the Butler game, I was doing radio and one of the greatest plays of all time because Hayward missed the shot, I think it was Matt Howard with the screen to get him free. Years later I asked Brad Stevens about it and I said, ‘I never even thought of a play like that to end the game.'”
Adding to those memories, having the tournament in Indiana which for Raftery, conjures memories of his relationship with Bob Knight, is special. This year, the crew will have the chance to make some more memories as they call games throughout including the Final Four and National Championship Game on CBS.
CBS will have coverage of the Final Four and National Championship games on Saturday April 3 and Monday April 5. Games can also be seen via NCAA March Madness Live and streamed through Paramount+.