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.

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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