Behind The Scenes

Presidential brackets head to the Smithsonian

ESPN features producer, Chad Minutillo, filling out the President’s first and second round picks minutes before meeting with the President.

(Steve Buckheit/ESPN)
(Steve Buckheit/ESPN)

What started with the bold ESPN senior writer Andy Katz “inviting myself to the White House” has evolved into an annual activity that will find representation for the next quarter century in the Smithsonian.

President Barack Obama’s 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s brackets were handed off to representatives of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History yesterday at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. The event was emceed by Katz and women’s basketball analyst and reporter Rebecca Lobo. (The museum already has Lobo’s basketball uniform from the Olympics in its possession.)

At the ceremony Katz recalled, “It all started as an idea at a Hampton Inn in Dunn, North Carolina when he was still Senator Obama.” With a promise that Katz and ESPN could come and fill out a bracket if Obama became President, the “epiphany” ask turned into one of the network’s most anticipated March moments.

“We didn’t know what to expect that first year in 2009,” said Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer. “We didn’t know how much time he was going to give us. The first year we only sent two producers.”

Over the years the process has evolved and now includes filling out both the men’s and women’s brackets.

“We are in the room around the 15-20 minute range,” Vitarelli said. “It’s an efficient process. This event has given a handful of people on our team the opportunity to meet the president. You can’t say that at every job.”

Eric Jentsch, Deputy Chair and Curator, Division of Culture and the Arts for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, affirmed the significance of the donation referencing the President’s statement that filling out brackets has become a national past time.

“This donation shows ESPN’s role in creating innovative moments that shape culture,” Jentsch said.

See the transformation of the Presidential brackets from preparation to handoff in the slideshow above.

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