Green College Sports

The Green World Gets Bracketologized!


The annual college basketball bacchanal known as March Madness begins tomorrow* at noon EDT.  For the somehow un-initiated, 64 teams play down to the Final Four on April 5 and then a National Champion will be crowned on April 7. 63 games over 3 weeks.  

Almost as popular as the games themselves, “bracketology”, the process of predicting the field of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and then predicting the tournament itself, has become its own national obsession. St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia actually teaches a course in bracketology. I’m not kidding. OK it’s not for credit, but still.  

Bracketology has gone beyond March Madness to all manner of pursuits, including Beer Madness and Funniest Movie Madness.  Why would the green world be any different?  


What do The Nature Conservancy, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Green Tech Media all have in common, other than that they are well-regarded entities in the green world? They all are using bracketology to engage, interest and/or motivate their constituencies to action.  Why? Bracketology is:

  • Incredibly popular.  According to, leading up to the 2013 tournament, “100 million people around the world [were] expected to put $12 billion on the line…which is more action combined than the Super Bowl!
  • Elegantly simple:  Two teams/ideas/products/issues compete. One wins and moves on; the other goes home.  “Survive and Advance” is an almost universally understood concept.
  • Fun:  A fancy word to describe bracketology is “gamification.”  Which is a long way to say FUN.

And, while Nature Conservancy, Michigan LCV and Green Tech Media are all dealing with serious topics that demand serious thought and serious action, they must believe that bracketology will increase participation and/or engagement and/or loyalty among their target audiences.  Here’s how the three organizations are using bracketology:


This month, TNC launched Nature’s Madness, a tournament between North America’s most tenacious animals–animals that are also facing calamitous losses to their habitats. TNC when with Nature’s Elite 8, and asked members, friends and visitors to to vote to decide who makes it to the Final Four.
TNC followed the March Madness formula by dividing the Elite 8 into 4 brackets:

  • Marine:  Terrapins vs. Sharks
  • Forest:  Owls vs. Tigers
  • Grasslands: Golden Eagles vs. Wolf Pack
  • Freshwater: Gators vs. Salmon

Voters will be entered to win one of five great prize baskets and are encouraged to share their selections on social media to receive additional chances to win.  With 18 days to go, 9,600 votes have already been cast. If you’d like to make your voice heard, click here.

While TNC took a lighthearted approach to generate interest and action, they brought home their underlying serious message with clarity: “These majestic animals are facing their toughest rival yet: habitat loss. The Nature Conservancy is committed to helping nature win.”



Triple Match Mitten Madness provides the Michigan LCV with a compelling way to highlight the existential threats to eight of the most pristine places in the state, to encourage grassroots fundraising and to turn things around.

Want some real March Madness? Each of the eight locales listed in Michigan LCV’s first-ever Triple Match Mitten Madness bracket is in danger due, according to LCV, to wrong-headed and/or shortsighted votes in the state legislature and/or executive decisions. The brackets are:

  • Upper Peninsula Bracket: Salmon Trout River v. Torch Lake, Keweenaw Peninsula
  • North Region: Holy Waters v. Straits of Mackinac
  • East Region: Detroit River v. Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Area
  • West Region: Saugatuck Dunes v. Kalamazoo River

Every dollar donated is like a 3-point shot as it is matched three times. Michigan LCV will give a portion of the amount raised to a local conservation group doing on-the-ground work in the winning area to better protect it from oil spills, fracking, or mining.

Michigan LCV’s Triple Match Mitten Madness brackets.


Donations to protect 8 threatened wild areas in Michigan will be tripled during March Madness.

The first round is ongoing; if you’d like to vote and donate, do so HERE.  You can even fill out your entire Triple Match Mitten madness bracket HERE.  And you can check on Michigan LCV’s Facebook page to see who’s winning.



Green Tech Media got into the act by using Bracketology as a metaphor with which to predict which of 16 states will install most solar panels in 2014. The writers, Mike Munsell and Cory Honeyman, a la the NCAA Tournament selection committee, seeded the states from #1 (California) to #16 (Maryland).  And, like sportswriters forecasting the tournament, Munsell and Honeyman played the states off against each other through Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four and Championship Game rounds.

Solar Brackets
Green Tech Media’s “Sweet 16” solar states. Mike Munsell and Cory Honeyman use bracketology to take readers through a state-by-state analysis of the top US solar states.

After an informative and entertaining analysis, Munsell and Honeyman went with the chalk by predicting #1 seed California will take home the crown (what about going with an upset, guys?!).  No matter which state ultimately claims victory, the US economy and the environment will be the real winners in 2014 as solar installations are projected to increase 26% vs. 2013.

Finally, with the actual basketball tournament about to start, we encourage all GreenSportsBlog readers to enter the Quicken Loans/Yahoo! bracket challenge.**

All you have to do is pick the winner of every game, starting Thursday.  That’s 63 for 63. If you do that (a BIG IF***), then Warren Buffett will give you $1 billion.

That’s 1 and 9 zeros.

And if you win that $1 billion, we at GreenSportsBlog expect you to invest a good chunk of your after tax winnings in an exciting clean tech startup or to start a green non-profit. Let us know how it goes!



* Actually the first, or play-in round started last night and continues this evening.  Two days of play-in games whittles the field down from 68 to 64 teams by Thursday noon.
** GreenSportsBlog has no financial stake in the Quicken Loans/Yahoo! bracket challenge nor in either company.  We only want one of our readers to win so the environment benefits!
*** The odds of going 63 for 63 have been estimated at 149,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1. That’s 149 quintillion. No sweat!



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  2. In terms of solar installations, I agree. California is very tough to beat–it’s sheer size is a major advantage. Per GreenTechMedia, it “is the only state that will continue to see statewide gigawatt-level growth in 2014.” Hoops-wise? I’m not sold on the 1 seeds.

  3. Brackets make my head spin, but I’m glad your on the case — with the real world implications of where we put our energy and resources. Let’s support NATURE’s survival against the odds of climate change.

  4. Thanks for your eloquent comment, Candy. With your deep understanding of the odds, I think you might want to fill out an NCAA bracket next year!

  5. Hey Greensportsblog — any thoughts on the fact that the NCAA Eastern Regionals are held at Madison Square Garden in NYC, but to qualify, teams are playing in Spokane Washington? Isn’t such a practice by the NCAA less then efficient in all sorts of “green” ways, not to mention the wear and tear on the supposed “student” athletes.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Bink. I’m with you, both on the carbon footprint and on the student athlete issues. Here’s a link to a story that extols NCAA’s greening efforts at the upcoming Final Four outside Dallas: No mention of far-flung team travel, so I made a comment about it.

  7. […] events, I stumbled across a really fun way to initiate sustainability in the hearts of many fans.  Three green companies used the science and technology of the March Madness bracketology to educate the public on the […]

  8. […] year, GreenSportsBlog ran a post about the intersection of Green and Bracketology. In it, we highlighted how The Nature Conservancy and the Michigan League of Conservation […]

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