It's not uncommon to hear a lot of talk -- particularly in the month of March -- about how high the television ratings are for college basketball. However, no matter how much hype you may hear today, no game has drawn the audience that the 1979 national championship game did.

Some would say it was Magic. Other may say a little Bird told them to watch.

Whatever the reason, March 26, 1979, was a day that saw the sport of basketball changed forever. Jud Heathcote's Michigan State Spartans, led by charismatic Michigan high school standout Earvin "Magic" Johnson, squared off with Bill Hodges' undefeated Indiana State Sycamores, led by the hard-nosed "Hick From French Lick," Larry Bird.

It captured the attention of the nation -- more than 35 million Americans tuned in to watch Johnson's Spartans beat Bird's Sycamores 75-64.

Of course, with so many choices on television these days, it's likely that no game will ever draw those numbers again. But television viewing habits aren't all that's changed in the 33 years since the last pre-ESPN Final Four was played.


Then and Now 1979 2012
Gallon of Milk


Gallon of Gas


US Population


Federal Debt

$829.5 billion

     $16.1 trillion
Video Games

Atari 400: $549

XBOX Live: $299
City of Champions


Music Player

Walkman ($200)

iPod (starting at $49)
Highest grossing film

Kramer vs. Kramer ($106 million)

The Avengers ($1.5 billion)
President of the United States

Jimmy Carter

Barack Obama
Homes with ESPN


NCAA championship game viewers

35.1 million

16.01 million