On Friday evening, a program from the first-ever NCAA basketball championship in 1939 sold for $5,184 on Lelands.com, a sports memorabilia auction website. The University of Oregon Webfoots were named national champions on March 27, 1939 after they beat Ohio State 46-33 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Bidding for the program began on July 15 with a starting price of $300. The first few bids were in the $300-$500 range, but the next drove the price up to $2,438. It jumped to $3,570 on July 24, where it remained until the last day of bidding on Friday, Aug. 17. Although the program was sold Friday night, the winner’s name will be announced when the company is given permission to release it.
The 79-year-old program, which the website describes as in excellent to mint condition minus a creased corner, features a black and white photo at Northwestern University’s Patten Gymnasium. The inside of the program lists the teams’ starting lineups with their rosters listed above each of the team’s photos.
The “Tall Firs,” a nickname given to the Oregon team due to the height of the starting lineup, were coached by Howard Hobson. According to a 2016 video interview with University Archivist graduate assistant Zachary Bigalke, the team’s front court starters we’re at least 6’4, making the team one of the tallest in the nation at the time.
The Oregonian reported that during the game, the players “gave 4,000 midwest fans and some 400 basketball coaches a whirlwind exhibition of crushing offensive power combined with just as effective defensive tactics.” The story was published to The Oregonian’s website in 2017, when the Ducks made it to the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1939.
The “homegrown” team received national attention and a warm welcome home in Eugene, where students met the Tall Firs at the train station, said Lauren Goss, Accessioning and Processing Archivist at Knight Library.
“The championship team was comprised solely of student-athletes from either Oregon and Washington,” Goss said. “The national news recognition celebrated the athletic talents of the university, but also identified the Pacific Northwest as a formidable power for developing collegiate athletes.”
The Tall Firs were the first NCAA championship winners, and the Oregon Daily Emerald reported on March 28, 1939 that “Oregon’s doors to immortality swing wide today as Eugene, the state, and the nation hail these Oregon champions.”