Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
I feel blessed to be a part of this. And I want to emphasize that we never said, ‘We’ve got to keep doing this the rest of our lives.’ We take it year by year, and we keep showing up. Creighton is the glue that holds the whole thing together.
Note: This story is an update of an earlier version. Chris and Doug will be in Houston for the Final Four tournament once again this year.
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By Micah Mertes
On March 14, 1981 — the day the NCAA deemed March Madness’ defining moment — a dozen Creighton students met in the basement of a Council Bluffs bar to watch a few games of college basketball.
(At the time, Omaha cable didn’t carry the recently launched ESPN. Bluffs did.)
“We watched the games on an old RCA projection TV,” says Chris Korth, BSBA’82. “The TV was only about 32 inches and had a horrible picture, but it was one of the greatest Saturdays of our lives. We saw so many buzzer beaters.”
During the games’ commercial breaks, the NCAA advertised a lottery to win tickets to next year’s Final Four. (Or, rather, to win the chance to buy semifinals and finals tickets at $13 a piece.) It was just $2 to enter. Doug Knust, BSBA'82, figured, why not?
When he won the tickets, he brought along his fraternity buddy Korth to the 1982 Final Four in New Orleans, where a North Carolina freshman named “Mike Jordan” hit the jump shot that won his team the championship.
In the 41 years since, Doug and Chris haven’t missed a single Final Four, except for the time in 2020 when there was no Final Four. They even went in 2021, when the arenas were limited to 25%. Last year, their tradition came full circle, with the guys returning to New Orleans.
Their tradition’s success, they say, is a matter of good planning and understanding family members and employers, but mostly good luck. They’ve never had a single travel delay to a Final Four. (Return trips are another matter.)
“People ask us how we get tickets every year,” Doug says. “But tickets aren’t that hard. Booking hotel rooms is much more of a challenge.”
The trick is to get ahead of everyone. They’ve got rooms booked for Houston next year and a house set up in Phoenix the year after that. Twice, they’ve booked their hotel rooms seven years in advance.
“We’ve become a lot more organized over the past 40 years,” Chris says.
The size of the annual Final Four group has ebbed and flowed from year to year. They’ve had as many as 30-something friends and family go to the games (1995 in Seattle). But there’s a core group of six guys who go consistently, including their Creighton friend Emmet Kenney Jr., BS’82, MD’86.
Emmet went to New Orleans this year, making it his 29th Final Four. He didn’t make it to New Orleans in 1982. (“I had an organic chemistry test.”)
The tradition’s 40-year journey from New Orleans to New Orleans seemed like such a great story to Doug’s daughter, Rachel Millard, BSBA'08 — who majored in marketing and now works in public relations — that she pitched it to a few media outlets. Doug and Chris made the local news.
“This is just a special story, and I wanted more people to know about it,” Rachel says. “One of the things my dad always said to us growing up is you need to make time for your friendships. You’ve got to make a concerted effort to consistently get together.”
That’s what the Final Four has been for the three Creighton alumni of ’82. Chris lives in Kansas City. Doug in South Dakota. Emmet in North Dakota.
“In the beginning of our years after Creighton, we got together for weddings,” Chris says. “We’re luckily not having to get together for funerals yet. This works as our annual reunion.”
All three men agree: There’s something special about Creighton friendships.
“My Creighton friends are the friends I’ve associated with the most throughout my life,” Emmet says. “If you’re doing well in life, who do you want to brag to? If you’re having problems, who do you want to bend the ear of?”
Doug: “One big reason my Creighton friendships are so special is there’s this balance. Not only do we go to the bar on Saturday night. We go to church together on Sunday morning. That’s part of our Final Four tradition. We go to Sunday Mass together whatever city we’re in.”
Chris: “The tradition’s become almost like a religious retreat. I’ve been fighting prostate cancer for a year and a half, and these guys have been so supportive. Being able to meet with them every year means everything.”
Doug: “I feel blessed to be a part of this. And I want to emphasize that we never — not when we went to the first Final Four or the second one or third one — we never said, ‘We’ve got to keep doing this the rest of our lives.’ We take it year by year, and we keep showing up. Creighton is the glue that holds the whole thing together.”
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With 41 years of Final Fours behind them, Doug and Chris answered a few of our lighting-round questions.
What's your favorite Final Four city?
Doug: “San Antonio. New Orleans. I love Phoenix. I love Houston. I’m a South Dakotan so any place where I can get a head start on the spring’s warm weather.”
Chris: “We went to Detroit one year, and our hotel was in Canada. Every time we went back and forth, we had to cross the border. It snowed the whole weekend. I’m in Kansas City so I tell people that anywhere else is a vacation. But Detroit is pushing it.”
What's the all-time best Final Four?
Doug: (Laughs) That’s a little bit like asking a parent, ‘Which kid is your favorite?’ Every year is special in its own way. Sometimes it’s the basketball games. Sometimes it’s the coaches. Sometimes it’s our traditional Sunday night dinner at the best steakhouse of whatever town we’re in. It’s hard to say.”
Chris: “Though when we were in Albuquerque in ’83, we were staying at the same hotel as the North Carolina State team. We were able to shake hands with all the players as they came back to our hotel, right after they won the national championship with Jim Valvano. That one stands out.”
Who do you root for if your teams aren't in the Final Four?
Chris: “We root for our best friend — double overtime. As much as we love to root for our hometown favorites, if they get in there and lose, that’s no good. It’s more fun to watch great games between teams we don’t care too much about.”
Doug: “My team is and always will be Creighton. I’m still hoping for the day when I’ll see my team in the Final Four. We’re close, man. We’re close.”
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Final Four photos