With the disappointing cancellation of the NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee (ABHC) and its partners wanted to create a significant positive community impact through community programs and donations leading up to what would have been Final Four weekend.
To support healthy lifestyles and recreational programming, 3,200 basketballs and t-shirts intended for the Final Four Dribble presented by Buick will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. The organization serves nearly 3,000 youth and teenagers among its 20 plus local clubs. One of the clubs, Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club located in southeast Atlanta, is also the benefactor of the 2020 NCAA Final Four Legacy Project presented by AXE, a Unilever brand. The restoration project tipped off on Feb. 11 with a Day of Service, where hundreds of volunteers gathered to help install new furniture and shelving, create inspirational murals, paint walls and doors, build outdoor awnings, enhance play spaces and more.
The ABHC and NCAA also donated 1,500 volunteer uniforms, which included a branded polo and hat, a poncho and a flashlight all bundled in a drawstring bag. The ABHC volunteers were set to fill 6,440 total volunteer shifts across 16 different roles between March 30 and April 7. The volunteer kits will support 19 recreation centers that have modified their schedules to provide meals to students during school closures. Additionally, Coca-Cola will be donating clear bags to community organizations in need across the U.S. including in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Birmingham and Phoenix.
With a goal of improving reading proficiency among third-grade students, the NCAA’s Read to the Final Four® featured record-breaking participation in metro Atlanta. With 359 elementary schools participating across the 20-county Atlanta metro region, more than 38,600 third-grade students enrolled. This set the record for the highest participation in the five-year history of the program. Read to the Final Four provided students with free access to thousands of books through a digital reading platform, enabling students and teachers to track Lexile growth. The primary highlight of the program was the bracket-style reading competition meant to mirror the NCAA basketball tournament. During a first-ever, live-streamed selection show held at B.C. Haynie Elementary School on Jan. 27, the top 68 schools participating in the Read to the Final Four bracket were revealed.
As schools advanced into the rounds of competition, they were rewarded with customized school supplies and motivational videos from two-time NCAA Champion Grant Hill and local student-athletes. Four schools ended the challenge on top— E.J. Swint Elementary (Jonesboro), Huie Elementary (Forest Park), Riverdale Elementary (Riverdale) and Tara Elementary (Morrow). Altogether, the students read more than 15.9 million minutes between November 5 and March 15. Given the increased need for online learning resources for students and teachers alike, all 359 participating schools will have access to the digital platform through June 30.
Also with youth education initiatives, the NCAA and ABHC energized colleges and universities through the Final Four Fan Jam, a mobile grassroots initiative geared towards bringing fun, basketball-themed experiences to fans from city to city. On its journey to Atlanta from Minneapolis, the Final Four Fan Jam truck traveled 1,128 miles and stopped at 25 colleges and universities along the way to increase excitement for the Final Four and ancillary events.
Upon arriving in Atlanta, a total of 30 Fan Jam activations were held locally. From Adamsville to Cartersville, more than 124,000 people interacted with the Fan Jam truck across all activations. The Fan Jam truck traveled to youth basketball tournaments, elementary schools, health fairs and more to help underscore a sense of community. The activations alone created 807 volunteer hours and six internship positions, providing college students with hands-on experience in sports administration.
College students at nine colleges and universities—Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University (GSU), Kennesaw State University (KSU), Morehouse College, Spelman College, University of Georgia (UGA), University of South Florida (USF) and University of West Georgia (UWG)—also signed up to volunteer with the Final Four Street Team. These students would have supported several of the events and activations during Final Four weekend. A total of 214 student volunteers, including 25 team leaders dubbed as “point guards,” were set to fill 738 shifts over the event weekend.
While most of the activations were scheduled to take place over Final Four weekend, the Street Team helped execute four on-campus activations at GSU, KSU, Morehouse and UGA. A new college course was also created at GSU, KSU, UGA and UWG to educate students on the impact and management of sporting events. A total of 36 speakers from various sports-related professions guest-lectured in the classes.
“Serving as the host city for the Final Four extends far beyond the games, and it is important we recognize the positive impact on students throughout Georgia from elementary schools to our leading universities,” said Carl Adkins, Executive Director, Atlanta Basketball Host Committee. “The activations and attention to detail that went into planning and preparing for the Final Four and DII, DIII Championship is something the entire Atlanta community should be proud of and we are grateful to have such incredible partners who were there every step of the way.”
It would’ve been a great week, but Atlanta still had its “one shining moment” by engaging with hundreds of thousands of Atlanta residents and activation participants through Final Four community outreach programs and donations.
The ABHC would like to extend a special thank you to the NCAA corporate partners for contributing to these various donations. Specifically the following elite companies as official Corporate Champions — AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola — and the following elite companies as official Corporate Partners — Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, GEICO, Google Cloud, Great Clips, Invesco, Lowe’s, Marriott BONVoY, Nabisco, Nissan, Pizza Hut, Reese’s, Uber Eats, Unilever and Wendy’s.