The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs (The East)

We may not be much help in filling out your bracket. But throughout this week we’re going to bring you a _flossy take on March Madness: one interesting fact about each of the 68 teams in the tournament field. Today we're tackling the East region.

(1) Ohio State houses at least one museum that won’t bore anyone to tears: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The museum, which is named after late Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist Billy Ireland, houses nearly half a million editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, and manuscripts.

Not surprisingly, famous cartoonists love the museum. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s widow gave the museum a $1 million donation with a promise to match up to another $2.5 million in donations from others. One of the others who has donated? The Family Circus creator Bil Keane, who gave the museum a $50,000 gift.

(16) Texas-San Antonio has come a long way since 1970, when its earliest students attended classes in an office park. The school has grown to more than 25,000 undergraduates, recently completed more than $250 million in construction projects, and is preparing to transition to Division I FBS status in football in 2013. ESPN SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle is one of the Roadrunners’ most famous graduates.

(16) Alabama State was founded in 1867 and boasts a wide-range of notable alumni, including civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks. NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and Flavor of Love 2 winner Deelishis also attended ASU, which is located in Montgomery.

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(8) George Mason’s fans and students are surely pulling for the Patriots to make a deep run into the tournament that mirrors their incredible 2006 trip to the Final Four. The school’s admissions office might be rooting the hardest for Jim Larranaga’s squad, though. In the year following the Final Four campaign, GMU saw its applications for freshman admission shoot up by 20 percent. The school also said that it had to triple the number and size of its campus tours for prospective freshman to keep up with the sudden interest in all things George Mason.

(9) Villanova boasts the Liberty Bell’s “Sister Bell,” a replacement ordered after the original bell cast at the foundry cracked. When the first bell cast from the Sister mold was damaged in a fire set by rioters in 1844, a new one was cast and sent to Villanova for safekeeping. It now sits quietly among students studying at Falvey Memorial Library.
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(5) West Virginia has produced a handful of professional basketball players, including NBA icon—and we do mean icon—Jerry West. After leading the Mountaineers to the 1959 national championship game, West was the second overall pick of the 1960 NBA draft and a 14-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Lakers. Alan Siegel, who designed the NBA’s ubiquitous red, white and blue logo in 1969, says that he used a photograph of West dribbling the ball with his left hand as the model for the silhouetted player in the logo.

(12) The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been known as the Blazers since the nickname was the winning entry in a name-the-team contest sponsored by the school’s student newspaper in 1977. The meaning of the nickname is unknown, though some have speculated that it was a reference to UAB’s trailblazing medical school. (In 1960, UAB faculty member Dr. Basil Hirschowitz became the first man to explore the human stomach with an endoscope.) A dragon, not a medical device, served as the school’s first mascot, but was later replaced by Beauregard T. Rooster and, for one year, a Viking. The dragon, named Blaze, returned for good in 1995.

(12) Clemson football coach John Heisman (of Heisman Trophy fame) was pretty shrewd. In 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech and immediately started partying upon their arrival. When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.
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(4) Kentucky got its royal blue team color from a piece of clothing. In 1891 the school needed a set of team colors before a football game against in-state rival Centre College. After some debate, the students settled on blue and yellow. (The yellow would change to white a year later.) Only one question remained: what shade of blue would they use? According to the school, football letterman Richard C. Stoll pulled off his royal blue necktie and suggested the squad use its hue. His classmates agreed, and UK had its blue.

(13) Princeton seniors have used “beer jackets” to protect their clothes from spillage, and, more recently, carry six-packs, as part of a tradition that began in 1912. The senior class votes on a design for the jackets, which are distributed in the spring before commencement every year. The early jackets were made of white denim to hide any beer foam that spilled on them, while more recent designs have been made of black canvas and feature plenty of spacious inside pockets. Talk about the perfect tournament-watching accessory.
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(6) Xavier actually has two mascots. D’Artagnan the Musketeer has been around since 1925; the idea of using a French musketeer came about because the school had strong ties to French culture in its early days. The other mascot, the Blue Blob, has a more mysterious back-story. The school may have developed the Blue Blob because the heavily armed D’Artagnan terrified small children, but others claim that the school won the Blue Blob as part of a Skyline Chili promotion in the 1980s.

(11) Marquette offers its students a pretty rock-and-roll living opportunity. Some lucky Marquette sophomore is sleeping in a room where the Beatles once crashed. The Fab Four played to a packed house at the Milwaukee Arena on September 4, 1964, before spending the night at the Coach House Motor Inn. In 1980 Marquette needed more space to house undergrads, so the school bought the hotel and converted it into a dorm called Mashuda Hall. There’s still a bit of debate about which rooms actually housed the Beatles, but the school’s website says that the common belief indicates it’s somewhere on the seventh floor.
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(3) Syracuse’s giant football and basketball stadium, the Carrier Dome, gets its name from heating and cooling leader the Carrier Corporation, which plunked down a $2.75 million naming gift to help with construction during the late 1970s.

(14) Indiana State also gets in on the Hoosier State’s racing spirit. Since 1970 the school’s annual spring week has included a tandem bicycle race. Coed mixed pairs participate in the race, which is nowhere near as silly as the campus’ other racing tradition: a 10-lap race around the quad on tricycles. The trike race dates back to 1963.
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(7) Washington's teams used to be called the Sun Dodgers, which was the name of a college magazine that had been banned from campus. School officials weren't wild about the name, so in 1921 a committee set out to pick a new one. The committee narrowed the field down to two options: Malamutes and Huskies. According to GoHuskies.com, those names were selected because of Seattle's proximity to the Alaskan frontier. The Huskies nickname was officially adopted on February 3, 1922.

(10) Georgia became the first university in the United States to be established by a state-supported charter when a 1785 act by the General Assembly incorporated the school. More than 200 years later, Georgia became the first university in the world to feature a school devoted specifically to the study of ecology. The Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology, named for the late UGA professor who wrote the first textbook on the subject, opened in 2007.
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(2) UNC may not have won a title last year, but the Tar Heels were #1 in one important poll—the Forbes 2009-10 list of college basketball's most valuable teams. UNC's hoops squad was valued at $29 million, up 12 percent from the previous year. Rounding out the top five: Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Illinois.

(15) Long Island is just the team for you if you enjoy a good talkie. Until 2005 the Blackbirds played their home games in Brooklyn’s Paramount Theatre, which happened to double as the first theater ever designed for talking pictures. The 4,124-seat venue opened in 1928 and showed movies and hosted concerts until LIU bought it and converted it into an arena in 1962. Some pretty huge names played concerts at the venue before it closed, including Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles.

The place actually kept rocking even after LIU turned the theater into a hoops venue. The school left the original Wurlitzer organ in the building and would fire it up for games.

Ethan Trex, Stacy Conradt, Meg Evans and Jason English also contributed to today's bracket. See Also: The Southwest and The Southeast.

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Invictus Games

Harry How, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation
Harry How, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Though the media tends to dwell on the private life of Prince Harry and his recent marriage to actor Meghan Markle, the Duke of Sussex has more on his mind than tabloids might suggest. Beginning October 20 in Sydney, Australia, and running through October 27, he'll be presenting the Invictus Games, a multi-sport competition he created in 2014 for wounded veterans. Athletes will participate in a variety of sports, including wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball, in an attempt to earn medals and, in Harry's words, "demonstrate life beyond disability."

For more on the history (and future) of the Games, check out our round-up below.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY AN AMERICAN COMPETITION.

Prince Harry talks to a Warrior Games representative in the United States
Arthur Edwards-Pool, Getty Images

While on a promotional tour of the United States to raise awareness for his charities, Prince Harry was invited to appear in support of the British team in the Warrior Games, a competition for wounded service veterans that was held in Colorado in 2013. Impressed by the camaraderie and enthusiasm shown by participants, he took the concept and created the Invictus (Latin for "unvanquished" or "unconquered") Games. The inaugural event was held in London in September 2014. "It was such a good idea by the Americans that it had to be stolen," he joked.

2. IT'S FUNDED IN PART BY BANK FINES.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand on the sidelines
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

While the Invictus Games attract corporate sponsors—including Jaguar—to subsidize the operating costs of the event, funds for the 2014 installment also came from fines levied against British banks that were charged with manipulating currency exchange rates. Approximately £1 million (roughly $1,300,000) were made available from the fines, matching the £1 million Prince Harry donated via his Royal Foundation.

3. THE GAMES FEATURE INDOOR ROWING.

An athlete in the Invictus Games competes in indoor rowing
Steve Bardens, Getty Images for Invictus Games

Invictus invites athletes to compete across a range of adaptive sporting events—sports that have been modified to be all-inclusive for people with an array of physical challenges. In sitting volleyball, athletes have to keep one butt cheek touching the floor while touching the ball. In indoor rowing, athletes use a rowing machine to simulate outdoor rowing.

4. WHEELCHAIR RUGBY GETS INTENSE.

Invictus Games athletes participate in wheelchair rugby
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

If you have an impression that modified sports are somehow easier than their able-bodied counterparts, you're mistaken. In wheelchair rugby, athletes attempt to get a volleyball across a court and between two cones on the opposing team's side. They experience frequent collisions that appear to have more in common with demolition derbies than football, and participants are sometimes blindsided by the hits, which can bend wheels and axles.

5. IT'S NOT JUST FOR HUMANS.

A service dog shakes off water after a swim at the Invictus Games
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Invictus

Because many disabled veterans rely on service dogs to assist in tasks of daily living, Games officials were more than willing to open their doors to the animals during the 2016 event in Orlando. At the last minute, organizers permitted the dogs to jump in the pool for an unofficial race. (Though it was held at Disney World, Pluto was not invited to participate in the doggy-paddle event.)

6. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN MADE AN APPEARANCE.

Bruce Springsteen shakes the hand of a war veteran at the Invictus Games
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Prince Harry's involvement has contributed heavily to appearances by a number of well-known public figures at the Games. Former president Barack Obama and Joe Biden attended the 2017 competition; David Beckham was named the 2018 ambassador. In 2017, Bruce Springsteen closed out the event in Toronto with a solo set. He was later joined on stage by Bryan Adams.

7. THERE WAS A GAP YEAR.

Prince Harry talks to representatives at the Invictus Games
Gregory Shamus, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

After the 2014 Games in London, Orlando hosted the 2016 contest and Toronto held the 2017 installment. There was no 2015 edition—the Games used a gap year in order for Orlando to raise the funds to organize the event. The competition will also skip 2019, moving to the Hague in the Netherlands for the 2020 Games.

8. IT'S GETTING MORE VETERANS INVOLVED IN SPORTS.

A group of athletes huddle during the Invictus Games
Harry How, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Members of the armed services don't need to compete in the Games to feel their influence. Following the inaugural 2014 event, Help for Heroes, which assisted in recruiting British athletes for competition, reported that there was a 463 percent increase in veterans signing up for archery talent assessments and a 633 percent increase in powerlifting enrollees.

9. THE GAMES WILL BE STUDIED BY SCIENCE.

An Invictus Games athlete holds up a trophy
Paul Thomas, Getty Images for Jaguar Land Rover

Participation in Invictus appears to be a significant boost for the overall morale of contestants. And thanks to a grant from the Forces in Mind Trust, we'll eventually have some objective evidence of it. For the next four years, researchers will follow 300 athletes to assess their overall well-being compared to non-participants. Such evidence of the benefits of adaptive sport will likely contribute to a greater number of participants—and funding—in the future.

10. A COMMEMORATIVE COIN WAS ISSUED IN BRAILLE.

An Invictus Games commemorative coin features text in Braille
Royal Australian Mint

In honor of the Invictus Games' vision-impaired contestants, the Royal Australian Mint issued its first-ever coin with Braille text. Intended to commemorate and publicize the 2018 event in Sydney, the coin features a disabled competitor and "Sydney '18" in Braille. The $1 AUD coin sells for $15 AUD (about $11) and is limited to a run of 30,000. A gold-plated version is limited to 2018 copies and sells for $150 AUD ($108).

8 of Evel Knievel’s Most Memorable Stunts

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Born on this day in 1938, Robert "Evel" Knievel was a stuntman who entertained audiences with his daredevil motorcycle jumps. After his first jump in 1965, Knievel upped the ante, making multiple record-breaking jumps (and breaking countless bones), all while wearing his signature leather jumpsuits. To celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday, we've compiled a list of eight of Knievel’s best motorcycle jumps, from the fountain at Las Vegas’s Caesar's Palace to London's Wembley Stadium.

1. CAESAR'S PALACE

On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in 1967, a crowd of thousands watched as Knievel attempted to ride his motorcycle across the Caesar's Palace fountain in Las Vegas, Nevada. As he made the 141-foot jump, the crowd watched in horror as Knievel botched the landing. His body bounced on the ground like a rag doll, and an ambulance drove him to a local hospital. The stuntman suffered multiple fractures and a concussion, but his jump made him famous when ABC aired video of the botched stunt.

2. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

In 1971, Knievel entertained an audience at the Auto Thrill Show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, he successfully jumped over a line of nine cars and a van. And in his characteristically flashy style, he wore a red, white, and blue leather jumpsuit.

3. LOS ANGELES COLISEUM

Knievel completed a perfect motorcycle jump in downtown Los Angeles in 1973. Held at the L.A. Coliseum, the event featured Knievel riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle over 50 smashed cars stacked in a pile. Some 35,000 spectators in the coliseum cheered as he safely made his landing and set a record that would stand for 35 years.

4. TWO LIONS AND A BOX OF RATTLESNAKES

In 1965, the motorcyclist performed his first public stunt. He organized an event in Moses Lake, Washington featuring two mountain lions and a box of rattlesnakes. Driving his Honda motorcycle, Knievel cleared a 90-foot box of serpents and then jumped over a couple of lions. Reflecting later on the beginning of his career, he remembered that although he was unharmed, the jump didn’t go as smoothly as planned. "I jumped 50 rattlesnakes in a 90-foot box and two mountain lions, but smashed into the edge of the box. All the snakes got out and the people had to run down the mountain," he said.

5. COW PALACE

In 1972, Knievel broke a record by jumping over 15 cars in an arena near San Francisco, but after the successful landing, he crashed and skidded through the short tunnel leading to the concessions. The crowd rushed after him, expecting him to be dead, but Knievel stood up (despite a newly broken ankle) and told the crowd: "If someone breaks this indoor record by jumping more than 15 cars, I’ll jump 16 or whatever the number … even if it kills me."

6. SNAKE RIVER CANYON

Idaho’s Snake River Canyon was the site of Knievel’s best-known stunt. Because he couldn’t get governmental approval to ride a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, he settled for his second choice: Snake River Canyon. In 1974, Knievel tried to jump from one side of the canyon to the other—a 1600-foot wide gap—but he didn’t ride a regular motorcycle. Instead, he used a steam-powered rocket dubbed the Skycycle X-2. After taking off, his parachute deployed too early, and the wind anticlimactically blew him back toward the rocks. In September 2016, stunt performer Eddie Braun successfully jumped over Snake River Canyon in a replica of Knievel's Skycycle.

7. WEMBLEY STADIUM

In May 1975, after his disappointing performance at Snake River Canyon, Knievel went to London’s Wembley Stadium to jump over a line of 13 single-decker buses. An estimated 80,000 people watched him as he attempted this 100-mile-per-hour jump. Unfortunately, he crash-landed on the last bus and bounced until he hit the ground. Despite his injuries, he asked to be helped up, took the microphone, and made an announcement. "I will never, ever, ever jump again," he told the crowd. "I'm through."

8. KINGS ISLAND

Although Knievel told the London audience that he was done after his Wembley jump, he came out of retirement a few months later. In October 1975, he rode his motorcycle over 14 Greyhound buses at Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park. After clearing 133 feet, Knievel landed safely, and the televised event earned huge ratings. Knievel continued performing stunts and doing speaking tours until the early '80s, mostly while traveling with his daredevil son, Robbie Knievel.

This article originally ran in 2016.

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