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Why does the winning team cut the net of the basket? The NCAA tradition explained

Damaging the sporting arena that was the scene of your famous victory is a common thing in college basketball, but where did it all begin?

Damaging the sporting arena that was the scene of your famous victory is a common thing in college basketball, but where did it all begin?

You’ve just won a major sporting title. Celebrations kick off but there’s something missing... Yes, you feel the need to chop off a piece of the arena.

It may, at first glance, appear a silly thing to say, but that’s exactly the tradition in college basketball. Specifically, NCAA teams that win championship games or significant victories often participate in the tradition of cutting off a piece of the net, something that dates back several decades. This symbolic gesture of victory and accomplishment is a way for the winning team to celebrate their hard work and dedication throughout the season and take home a piece of the game as a memento.

According to basketball historians, the tradition of cutting down the net began in the 1940s and has since become a staple of college basketball culture. When a team wins a championship game, players climb the ladder and use scissors to cut down the net from the baskets. This act signifies the team’s triumph and is often accompanied by cheers, music, and celebration. It’s seen as a tradition that symbolizes the hard work and dedication it takes to win a championship, a never-to-be-forgotten moment shared with teammates, coaches, and fans.

Who was the first to cut down the net?

Following the North Carolina State Wolfpack’s second Southern Conference victory in 1947, their head coach, Everett Case, sought a keepsake to honour the occasion. He settled on the basketball net from the game, but faced a challenge in obtaining it as there was no ladder readily available for him to cut it down with scissors. In a display of teamwork and support, his players lifted him up, and thus began the tradition.

Who cuts the net?

Generally speaking the freshman/woman will head up the ladder first to cut a piece and he or she is then followed in order of seniority. The triumphant coach goes up last, at which point the cheers are at their loudest.

And in case you were wondering, there has been such a focus on this tradition that the ladder and scissors now have an official brand, Werner and Fiskars, respectively.

Does this tradition happen in other sports?

Interestingly, the tradition of cutting down the net has evolved to include other college sports beyond basketball. For example, the University of Alabama football team began cutting down the goalpost’s uprights after significant victories in the 1960s.

Although NBA teams don’t copy this tradition, just think of the equivalents in other sports: Formula 1 drivers slashing their tires for a piece of rubber, baseball players slicing off home base, swimmers taking a cup of water from the pool... OK, maybe let’s leave it to the college kids.