‘The streak lives on’: Chamberlain’s Knust to continue Final Four tradition next year after cancellation

From left, Calvin Rider, Doug Knust, Emmet Kenney, John Pollard, Chris Korth, Bren Abbott and Matt Hesse stand outside Reliant Stadium during the 2011 Final Four in Houston, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

CHAMBERLAIN -- Doug Knust sat down for a Zoom call at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

It’s not the steak dinner he’s used to on an early April weekend, but it had to do. Knust usually spends Sunday nights of NCAA’s Final Four weekend at the nicest steakhouse in the host city. It’s become a tradition for the Chamberlain resident.

With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, there was no steak or gathering of friends this year. Knust was left with a virtual cocktail party, reminiscing about the 115 Final Four basketball games he’s witnessed in person since 1982. He and longtime friend Chris Korth haven’t missed one since then.

“It was really tough,” said Knust, who is a car dealer. “... We got to be pretty melancholy.”

Unable to add another chapter to his college basketball fandom, or watch his alma mater Creighton University potentially make a deep run as a projected No. 2 seed, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, left a hole in Knust.


He was in New York City supporting the Bluejays in the Big East tournament when the whirlwind of postponements and cancellations in the sports world started. Knust found a place to watch the Creighton game with other Bluejays fans after the Big East limited attendance, but he knew the NCAA tournament was in jeopardy when the NBA postponed its season.

When the NCAA officially canceled March Madness, Knust’s phone blew up.

“When they said the tournament was going to be canceled. I got lots of emails and I got lots of phone calls right away,” Knust said. “And with my buddies that go to the Final Four with me, at first it was like, well, if they have games but there’s no crowd, then the streak ends. But if there’s no Final Four, the streak lives on.”

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From left, Emmet Kenney, Doug Knust, Calvin Rider, Chris Korth, Bren Abbott and Matt Hesse stand outside of U.S. Bank Stadium during the 2019 NCAA Final Four. (Courtesy photo)

Creighton’s overachieving season ended prematurely and he wasn’t able to meet up with his group of friends, but there was a celebration on Sunday’s Zoom call that the streak stayed alive. Knust and Korth still haven’t missed a Final Four game since 1982.

With no new stories being made, the group of seven friends who were planning on attending the Final Four became storytellers. They talked about old games they attended and sent photos in their texting group chain. For Knust and Korth, that spans from Michael Jordan’s game-winner in 1982 to Virginia’s redemption tour last year.

Knust took it a step farther and posted his top-five semifinal and championship games on his personal blog, along with honorable mentions. He rated each game based on its “storyline factor, buzzer-beater factor and David vs. Goliath factor.”


His top semifinal game was when Duke defeated UNLV, 79-77, in 1991. The only game to receive a perfect score was his top-rated championship game -- one he sat in the seventh row from the top of The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- when North Carolina State upset Houston at the buzzer, 54-52, in 1983.

“It was my second Final Four and after that one, I vowed to never miss another!” wrote Knust, who even in the moment realized the magnitude of the upset.

The raw emotion and youthful enthusiasm from students and fans when watching college basketball continues to draw Knust back. It gives him a taste of when he was in college, while being surrounded by friends who have scattered across numerous states.

But witnessing Jordan sink a game-winner, and then Jim Valvano running around the court after Lorenzo Charles’ game-winning dunk initially hooked him to college basketball’s biggest stage.

“If you don’t get kind of hooked after those two classics, you probably aren’t that big of a college basketball fan,” Knust said.

It all started when he was a junior at Creighton and he won four tickets to the 1982 Final Four through a NCAA ticket lottery. Since then, he’s witnessed numerous thrillers, blowouts and upsets at countless venues.

Having him choose his favorite venue is like “asking me who’s my favorite kid,” but he said U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis last year had great sightlines and an open concourse. With his friend group residing in mostly northern states, they usually enjoy going to San Antonio, New Orleans and Phoenix.


Doug Knust, right, and Emmet Kenney wear their Creighton University gear to the 2016 NCAA Final Four in Houston, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

This year, they were supposed to be in Atlanta. Instead, they sat on Zoom, celebrating the streak living, reminiscing about old stories and confirming next year’s plans.

“Sunday night, on our virtual cocktail party, we confirmed we have hotel reservations in Indianapolis,” Knust said. “We will be planning to attend.”

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