Many college basketball fans think that the season gets underway in earnest around Thanksgiving, when there are several high profile early season tournaments taking place all over the country. However, it might be more appropriate to say that things get kicked off much earlier in October with Midnight Madness.
Most of us are intimately familiar with the excitement that March Madness can bring, but Midnight Madness is a concept not everyone might know much about. Held several weeks before the first game, Midnight Madness is essentially a big party thrown by the school to get the fans excited about the upcoming season. As you might have guessed, these festivities are held at a specific time of the evening—midnight! Despite the late start, fans, athletes and alumni like fill the arena with good vibes, hope, and well wishes for the upcoming campaign.
Not many can resist a good natured event such as Midnight madness, but who’s idea was it to start the party so late? The tradition began with a lot less fanfare at the University of Maryland before the 1971 college basketball season. Terrapins head coach Lefty Driesell sent his players to run for one mile just after 12AM during the start of the season. Little did anyone know, that classic coaching decision would turn into a gala that would be broadcasted on ESPN+.
“This was Lefty’s way of saying, ‘Hey world, Maryland is here now. We got a great team and I’m going to be the first team in America to practice,” Tom McMillen said Via NBCsports.com.
McMillen was on the Maryland basketball team during that groundbreaking run.
It doesn’t matter whether the program has fallen on hard times, or whether the recruiting season didn’t go as planned. Everyone and their mother, or their wives, looks forward to Midnight Madness.
“…We’ll have Hoosier Hysteria, which my wife has been telling me for about 60 straight days,” former Indiana men’s basketball coach Tom Crean said while he was leading the Hoosiers. “’Quit trying to run drills. Make it entertaining for the fans’(Crean’s wife said)”. “So I’m trying to listen to her on that.” Via Indystar.com
It’s such a spectacle, that celebrity acts often show up to campus. Midnight Madness for the Kansas Jayhawks(also known as Light Night In the Phog) featured a performance by Run DMC earlier this month. The Memphis Tigers brought in rappers Lil Baby and Future to perform at their Midnight Madness kickoff in 2019.
If you’re really lucky, the coach of the basketball team might agree to be shot out of a cannon. Midnight Madness might be the best sports-related party you’ve never heard of.