60 Years of March Madness Through the Lens of Rich Clarkson

Curators’ Corner

60 Years of March Madness Through the Lens of Rich Clarkson

March Madness is one of the purest, most inspiring events in all of sports.

Out of 350+ NCAA Division 1 basketball programs across America, only 68 find themselves in the “Big Dance.” Many of them are the perennials – Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and the like. Yet many more are teams that either endured the nail biting of Selection Sunday, or won their respective conference tournaments. The million-dollar question every year is, “Who will be Cinderella?” – who will be the tiny, previously unknown school to come out of nowhere and shock the world?

There will be something missing in the 2016 edition of March Madness, though, and that’s the photography of Rich Clarkson. As an official photographer for the NCAA, Clarkson had been shooting the grand finale of the NCAA Tournament – the Final Four – since the 1950s. That’s 60 straight years of Madness in photos. Clarkson tabbed last year the final year of his incredible run before retiring.

March Madness rich

“You know, where I sit cross-legged in the corner of the court and I’m sitting there and it becomes halftime and it becomes the end of the game, it gets more and more difficult just to stand up,” the 82-year-old photographer told CBS last year.

Final Fours were by no means the only highlights of Clarkson’s career. He has photographed everything from Super Bowls to Rose Bowls to World Series to Olympics. But March Madness always had his heart as it does so many of ours.

“There are no helmets, there are no shoulder pads, you see everyone all the time,” he said. “The college game I think is more charming.”

Clarkson, who photographed his first NCAA championship game in 1952 at age 20, sold his first photo for 75 cents. Safe to say, his images now go in the thousands.

Wilt Chamberlain. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. Michael Jordan. Clarkson photographed them all before they ever became NBA legends. In the spirit of March Madness 2016, we highly recommend checking out this gallery of Clarkson’s Final Four images compiled by CBS.