Shortly before embarking on a two-week European vacation last month, Kristin Helgeson, a 29-year-old Atlanta graphics designer, was pestered by coworkers to enter ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament Challenge. Helgeson, a casual college basketball fan, hastily submitted an entry with a Final Four of Florida (her alma mater), Michigan State, North Carolina and Wisconsin (her dad's alma mater).
"The day after me regional finals I returned from Europe," says Helgeson, "and things started getting weird." Of the 590,000 contestants, she was the only one with the correct Final Four. ESPN.com posted a profile of her. Then USA Today ran her photo. Suddenly thousands of sports-addled males began contacting her by E-mail or phone. "I've gotten about 25 marriage proposals," Helgeson, who is single, said last Friday, when her profile had received nearly 15,000 hits. "I've had everything from 'I'm 6'1", very fit and I live in Seattle' to a college coach who asked me to go to his school's Web site to see a photo of him."
Helgeson's pick of the Gators to go all the way cost her first place. ( Bill Madden of Rockland County, N.Y., who had three of the Final Four and picked Michigan State as champion, received a $1,000 Final Four party and 64 pizzas.) "I won $50 in my office pool," Helgeson says, "but as for ESPN.com, I'm like the game-show contestant who goes home with the Water-Pik."