LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You won't be seeing the Cards play in San Antonio for the Final Four this coming weekend, but the University of Louisville won't be lacking representation.
In fact, regardless of who plays in the Final Four, UofL is always there -- through the Statistics Team. This weekend will be the team's 50th consecutive Final Four they're working.
While the team prepares for departure Wednesday, WAVE 3 News caught up with the man who started the decades-long partnership with the NCAA.
Al Benninger said the opportunity to keep stats for a game really landed in his lap. He told us he had a friend who kept stats, who invited him to the basketball games. Benninger said because his friend was on the stats team, he got to sit in the good seats and watch the games up close. Everything took a turn one day when someone didn't show up on the stats team.
"They said 'Al, you gotta keep stats, so-and-so didn't show up,'" Benninger explained. "I said I didn't know how and they said, 'We'll teach you.'"
He said he got hooked after that. He kept returning to keep stats for more games around town. He was doing the same during a game at Freedom Hall back in 1969 when he had a great idea to ask a NCAA representative if he and the team could keep stats for them in the future.
At first he didn't get an answer, but a month after that he got a call, inviting the team to keep stats for the Final Four in College Park, MD. The rest is really history.
"It's almost like, 'See you next year,' because we've got a great reputation," Benninger said.
Benninger retired when the crew hit their 40th consecutive Final Four. However, he said hitting 50 is a great honor with the NCAA.
"When they get something going good they like to keep it that way," Benninger explained about the way NCAA likes to do things. "They have the same PA announcer, the same score keeper. That's the way it is. We just happened to get in good with them."
The current group of six statisticians, led by Jason Bond, will head out Wednesday for San Antonio. For them, Benninger has nothing but faith.
"I couldn't ask for a nicer guy to replace me as chief of the stats crew and he's a computer expert," Benninger said about Bond. "So it works out well for him. I know they will do their usual great job."
Since his retirement, Benninger said he still is an avid fan and enjoys watching the games. He said it's more fun simply being a fan while the Cards play.