Virginia cut down the nets in victory. Here’s how they could do that
MINNEAPOLIS -- Long before Virginia or Texas Tech arrived in Minneapolis for the Final Four over the weekend, maybe the most important piece of equipment — well, other than the ball and the hoops — already was tucked away in a corner of U.S. Bank Stadium.
It got shipped in about a week ago, though very few people knew of its exact whereabouts before Monday’s national championship game. Even then, only a handful of people gave it much thought.
With 3 minutes, 28 seconds remaining, though, NCAA representatives Chase Bengel and Travis Dunnette rushed to opposite baselines, getting themselves in position to reveal customized ladders that had been previously stored underneath the raised court.
“I’ll run around and do things as needed and then when that last TV timeout rolls around, it’s time to go,” Bengel explained pregame. “As soon as the final horn goes off, we’ll go ahead and pull the ladders out and set them up. It’s a really neat moment. It’s an honor to be able to do it.”
For the past 11 years, Werner has been the official ladder of the NCAA, meaning it has lifted every champion since then, from Kemba Walker to Anthony Davis to Tyus Jones, as they’ve cut down the nets with “One Shining Moment” blaring in the background.
It can now add Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter to that list as Virginia became the latest team to climb the ladder after securing an 85-77 overtime victory over Texas Tech to win the national championship.
A tradition introduced by longtime North Carolina State basketball coach Everett Case in the 1940s, cutting down the nets has become a customary highlight of the end of every Final Four. As soon as the final horn sounds, and all the confetti settles, every player and coach from the winning team take turns scaling a ladder and snipping off a little piece of the net to take with them.
“Basically, if they were going to use our ladder we wanted to make sure it was our ladder,” said Stacy Gardella, the vice president of brand marketing for Werner. “You want to try to be creative and have some authentic brand activation, and it doesn’t get more authentic than that.”
Still, it’s not as simple as going out and buying the ladder for a local hardware store. It’s a customized 9-foot ladder designed to fit perfectly under the rim.
If that’s not enough, Werner stepped up its game even more over the past few years with a new version that has a larger platform and a larger guardrail designed specifically with cutting down the nets in mind.
“We did research on the average height and shoe size of the players and we built a customized Podium Ladder,” Gardella said. “That particular product is actually not available to the public.”
In the moments after Virginia officially won the national championship, Bengel and Dunnette already had sprung into action as pandemonium ensued around them. They hurriedly set up the ladders on opposite ends of the court — and then just as quickly faded to the back.
“You end up having a lot more time than it feels like,” Bengel said. “It’s a really neat experience, though. It’s the pinnacle of (the players’) career right there and we get to be a little part of it.”
As players and coaches took turns cutting down the nets, nobody really noticed the ladder they were standing on. And that’s kind of the point.
“We have done our job if it’s something that someone doesn’t really look at,” Gardella said. “You obviously have to have a ladder because cutting down the nets is a major part of it. That said, we should be a secondary thought when that’s going on. It’s their moment. We are just a part of it.”