Everett Case knew 1949 would be a historic year for NC State basketball. For one, he knew the Wolfpack had its new home with Reynolds Coliseum opening that December. So he felt compelled to add a little competitive flavor to the Christmas season that year by introducing a new tournament featuring the Big Four — NC State, UNC, Wake Forest and Duke.
And on this day in 63 years ago, the Dixie Classic held it’s first day of action, and the Wolfpack defeated Rhode Island State, 81-64. Penn State, Georgia Tech and West Virginia were the other schools who joined the Rams to take on the Big Four Schools. NC State won the inaugural tourney that first year with a win over Penn State.
Case’s vision for the Dixie Classic sprang from his love of the tournament basketball he had seen in his home state of Indiana, according to Bethany Bradsher’s The Classic: How Everett Case and His Tournament Brought Big Time Basketball to the South.
“He loved the atmosphere created by tournament basketball, the showmanship of the event and the feeling that any team could press through and go home with a towering trophy,” Bradsher writes. “It was a passion born in Indiana, where high school ball had no size divisions and the smallest schools could play for the state tittle… Case was fond of saying, ‘A tournament is like a banquet, and every game is a feast.'”
The Dixie Classic became a favorite annual tradition for Wolfpack fans around the state. And it also served as a stage for NC State’s dominance, as Case’s team went on to win seven tournament titles from 1949-60.
But it also fell victim to a scandal in 1961 when three Wolfpack players found themselves entangled in a point-shaving scandal. The Dixie Classic was canceled that year out of a growing fear of organized crime’s penetration into college athletics.