Recognitions included a special commemorative banner being unveiled during a halftime ceremony acknowledging the 1976 Hoosiers as the #1 All-Time March Madness Team by the NCAA on the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament and each member of the team being given their jersey framed during the halftime ceremony. IU Athletics today also announced that the hospitality area in the south end of the remodeled Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall will be named "The Spirit of '76 Club" in that team's honor, and that today the players accepted IU Athletics' invitation to erect statue honoring the 1976 team outside of the south entrance to Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall prior to next season.
"It's humbling, it really is," said guard Quinn Buckner. "I want to thank all of you who came out to support. Seeing some of those faces has been wonderful. It's as high an honor as I've been a part of in my life. I don't necessarily mean going undefeated, but to have my teammates come back for this and for the university, for a look that has stood the test of time. Like coach (Bobby) Knight always used to tell us, we probably didn't know half the things we needed to know, but as coach Knight pointed out the things that we had no idea, so it's special to be back with these guys again."
The long horizontal banner unveiled at halftime recognizes the 1976 team's singular place in basketball history. The banner reads "1976 Indiana Hoosiers" on the top line and "NCAA's #1 All-Time March Madness Team" on the line below. The 1976 Hoosiers were voted the #1 All-Time March Madness Team on the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament in 2013, and the banner will permanently hang on the south end of Assembly Hall.
"It was incredibly special to be back at IU with my teammates," said forward Tom Abernethy. "It was a tremendous team with a fantastic coach who achieved something truly remarkable. I cannot thank IU enough for bringing us all together to celebrate our 40th anniversary."
It was announced this evening that the new hospitality area on the remodeled south end of Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall will be named "The Spirit of '76 Club" in honor of the team, how they represent the essence of Indiana University basketball, and reflecting that moment in history where IU's first NCAA Championship since 1953 coincided with the excitement and optimism of a year when fans were also celebrating the nation's bicentennial.
"I think knowing what that team accomplished and the fact that it hasn't been done since registers with everyone throughout the state of Indiana," said IU Coach Tom Crean. "That team was a big part of my love for Indiana growing up. It just caught me watching this team play. They all believed in what they were doing, and no problem was ever too big to disrupt the team. They listened to their coach to understand how to win those games. They must have had an incredible belief in one another over a period of time that was forged through successes and adversity."
It was also announced today the players accepted IU Athletics invitation at the pregame celebration to erect a new statue featuring all the seniors and starters from the 1976 team outside the main entrance on the south side of Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall before next season. Having all these players represented, the statue reflects the selfless nature of that team, honors their transcendent achievements, and symbolizes that they are the team that will long represent the best attributes of Indiana University's storied basketball tradition.
"The 1976 Hoosiers were my heroes," said Indiana University Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Fred Glass. "It has been an honor and privilege to recognize the greatest team in basketball history on their 40th anniversary. Words cannot express how much this team means to me, but more importantly to this university, this state, and to basketball history."
The season-long honoring of the 40th anniversary is highlighted by: season tickets being mailed to fans in a folded keepsake replica of the 1976 championship banner; a commemorative patch placed on the back of IU's home and away jerseys throughout the year; the 1976 team being featured prominently in this season's intro video; and Bobby Wilkerson and Tom Abernethy being inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame. With Wilkerson and Abernethy being inducted all five starters from the 1976 undefeated team are now in the IU Athletics Hall of Fame along with head coach Bob Knight.
"Memories that haven't faded in 40 years are this team's legacy," said legendary sportswriter Bob Hammel. "Six other NCAA champions went undefeated, none own a comparable regular-season or tournament path. What was this team's greatest feat? They were 5-0 against the rest of the Final Four; anyone else ever do that? Their second straight 18-0 sweep through the Big Ten while wearing No. 1, tacking on the games that carried them 10 beyond any Big Ten streak before or since? Maybe history's greatest passing team, one of the strongest (first with all starters weighing 200 pounds), outstanding rebounders – but shooting? Does .517 for the season do? All of that was a backdrop when they were down 35-29 at halftime with Wilkerson, the guard who jumped center and guarded stars of any size, out because of an early injury. This team responded to that pressure moment with a 57-33 turn-around in the second half, still the most points in a half – either half – in 77 championship games. That's my choice."