If you have watched any college basketball game in the last 10 years, odds are you saw a familiar face in the crowd. That face was probably enlarged and plastered on a piece of cardboard so a fan could raise it up as a distraction for an opposing player preparing to shoot a free throw. They are everywhere, and college basketball continues to be the pioneering sport fad.“It’s amazing to see how the phenomenon has grown,” said Nathan Partington, vice president for licensing at Fathead, now one of the leading suppliers of items of the sort once fashioned at home from pizza boxes and glue sticks.

“It’s amazing to see how the phenomenon has grown,” Nathan Partington, vice president for licensing at Fathead, said in a story published by The New York Times. Partington and FatHead are not alone in this game either.

“People see it in use, and their wheels get turning,” said Bryan Price, founder of Build-A-Head. “We’re an open book for their creativity.”

Pinpointing the origin of the phenomena can be difficult, but the New York Times suggests San Diego State should be given credit for beginning the idea that would soon capture the college basketball, and sports, world in the years to come.

Many trace the origins of the big heads to a few mischievous San Diego State students in the early 2000s, but the lineage could reach back even further than that. Poster-size cutouts of Adam Sandler’s head, for instance, appear sprinkled through the golf crowds in Sandler’s 1996 film “Happy Gilmore.”

Seeing what San Diego State did, Marquette fans took this to a whole new level…

After San Diego State fans brought the big heads courtside, Marquette took the idea a few steps further. From 2006 to 2013, the Golden Eagles produced at least 150 heads for use during games, according to totals on the heads’ official web page, which lists those that have been retired, stolen or traded, and even the win-loss records of each big head. (Most wins? The “Family Guy” character Stewie Griffin, with 35, trailed closely by Charles Barkley and Dick Vitale.) Marquette refers to its big heads as Big Noggins, after the university signed a sponsorship deal with a local job board, JobNoggin.com, to put ads on the backs of its heads.

With college basketball entering tournament time, there will surely be a good dose of these big head cutouts to be seen around the country over the next month.

[New York Times]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.