The North Carolina General Assembly to the First President of the University of North Carolina, 1795

The only substance more addictive than nicotine is March Madness.

Dear Chancellor,

We are most impressed with your early progress on what will surely be the flagship academic institution of our great state. Already, the young men of North Carolina are being shaped and molded into the next generation of leaders of this Republic. We are most excited about your expanding curriculum, with “Tobacco Studies” joining “History of Tobacco” and “Tobacco and Business 101.” The new law school, which promises to focus on the Common Law of Tobacco, also looks terrific. Great job all around.

While we do not wish to interfere with your ongoing expansion, this new legislature does wish to emphasize that we support you expanding your course reach. While the consumption and production of tobacco will surely remain the most important study in our state, we hope you will agree when we say that times change. We believe that in the future, the most important thing our state university can hope to achieve is success competing against other schools in a  game where a rubber ball is thrown through a hoop. This endeavor will surely earn us more accolades than any other academic program could hope to achieve, and must be properly funded to ensure success.

Therefore, consider this an official change to your charter. First, the Legislature of this state do declare that the goal of our state university is to provide an excellent education in all fields (philosophy, mathematics, tobacco) to all men of this state. Second, the Legislature does consider the playing of a basketed-ball game to be the most efficient way to achieve the goals outlined. So you’d better start rounding up some athletes, nerd.

Let’s Go Heels,

The Hon. John Leigh, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Commons


This letter, currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of Basketball History, is the earliest known account of the disease commonly known as “March Madness.” John Leigh apparently contracted the highly contagious ailment when he flirted, albeit innocently, with a baboon at the Raleigh Zoo.

March Madness, which is characterized by an intense, feverish interest in NCAA basketball and a belief in one’s ability to predict the future, has since been contained through a round of rabies shots and showing patients a video in which a crocodile correctly picks the winner of the Final Four 85% of the time.

But in Leigh’s time, nobody knew quite what to do. Here was a man suggesting that at some point in the future, tobacco would not be the most important export of North Carolina. As shameful as it seems to us with our modern perspective on illness, Leigh was committed to an insane asylum in Asheville, which later became a farm, which later became a commune, which later became a trendy brunch place.

Leigh’s ghost still haunts the waffles, which are excellent.



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2 responses to “The North Carolina General Assembly to the First President of the University of North Carolina, 1795

  1. marc

    I always wondered about the origin of b-ball in NC.

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