March Madness with a twist

Monday, April 02, 2018 - Updated: 11:59 pm

By MATTHEW PEASLEE Associate Editor

The fever of March Madness has spread to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. However, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with basketball.

Dr. Darlene Weaver, director of the Center for Catholic Faith and Culture, has created a unique field of 64 people who highlight the richness of Catholic intellectual tradition. In the same style of NCAA Tournament brackets, Weaver’s creation, called CIT Madness, allows participants to choose winners in head-to-head matchups. The CIT Madness bracket is open to all Duquesne students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The tournament started March 16, but there is still time to sign up before the championship round March 27. To register, visit http://bit.ly/2IztTTi.

“This is something fun to recognize the many great leaders and innovators of Catholic intellectual tradition,” Weaver said. “Catholicism has given so much to the world and produced people who we may take for granted on an everyday basis. We tend to think of Catholic intellectual tradition as being just the province of Catholic education and philosophy, but it goes much further into the real world.”

Some of the intellectuals in this year’s bracket include St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Martin de Porres. There’s also Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles, nuclear physicist Antonio Zichichi, and Pittsburgh native pop artist Andy Warhol.

“Artists may not qualify in the traditional sense of CIT,” Weaver said. “But it’s a responsibility to celebrate the arts because Catholics have given so much to the arts and they deserve a place. It’s helpful to tout the fame and accomplishments that other Catholics occupy.”

To that extent, actress Nicole Kidman, singer Harry Connick Jr. and former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant are also in the bracket. Many of the names in this year’s bracket are holdovers from years past. Making it to the Sweet 16 allowed intellectuals to qualify for the bracket in the next year.

Weaver started CIT Madness in 2014, following a trial run of a similar event surrounding the papal conclave in 2013. She set up a bracket with bishops and cardinals who could have been in the running for the papacy.

“It was a nice way to introduce our church leaders,” she said.

The winner of the inaugural CIT Madness was Leonardo da Vinci. Other winners were Stephen Colbert, J.R.R. Tolkien and Roberto Clemente. Participants from Duquesne can win prizes by registering for CIT Madness. Those voting receive points for picking the winner in each round.

“As a college basketball fan and a student interested in learning more about Catholic history, I think this is very cool,” said Duquesne junior Michael Barber. “I’m doing well in my basketball bracket and hopefully I have some people going far in CIT Madness.”

Several campus organizations have sponsored intellectuals in the bracket. The Gumberg Library sponsored Rwandan Holocaust survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza, who is set to speak April 3 at Duquesne. Weaver said several hundred people have signed up to play and vote in the brackets. The numbers have increased each year with wider publicity, student-produced graphics and newer voting technology.

There is no seeding of the intellectuals, like basketball teams are assigned in the NCAA Tournament. Weaver chooses the names and places them in the bracket, and her graduate assistant keeps a close eye on the votes and tabulates the results.

“The March Madness bracket hoopla is here on our campus as a fun way to help people understand the richness of CIT,” Weaver said.

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