It began more than 40 years ago, and it will commence again in less than six weeks. College basketball’s “Midnight Madness” tipoff practice is a signature jump-start to the season for many of the nation’s top programs. But you don’t need to be an elite program to hold one. You just need caffeine to stay awake (though most events these days start well ahead of midnight).
Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell started the tradition back in 1971. The Terrapins began practice at 12:03 a.m. on October 15 with a 1.5-mile run, as approximately 3,000 fans surrounded the running track on campus.
Today, Midnight Madness has become an event, complete with celebrity appearances, music, contests and, of course, basketball. Here are 10 schools that do the madness in style:
This year, head coach Jamie Dixon is taking his Panthers out for some air: Pitt’s Midnight Madness will be held outdoors.
A court will be laid down on Bigelow Boulevard, complete with lights, portable bleachers and a video board. Capitalizing on Homecoming weekend for the football team (Pitt plays Louisville the next day), a fireworks show will be held before the team takes the floor.
St. John's gives away about 1,435 more Nathan's dogs at Midnight Madness than Joey Chestnut is capable of wolfing down.
When it comes to prizes, St. John’s knows how to party at midnight.
Someone won an iPad at last year’s event, and the first 1,500 fans get a free Nathan’s hot dog (for those of you outside the Northeast, it’s what Joey Chestnut shoves down his throat 65-odd times each July 4th on ESPN).
The Blue Demons gave one lucky fan a chance to ride along to the Big East Tournament.
Give DePaul credit: It’s been a long time since the days of Ray Meyer and Mark Aguirre. But the Blue Demons came up with a unique Midnight Madness gimmick: a drawing for one fortunate fan to be able to travel with the men’s and women’s teams to the Big East Tournaments in March.
Sure, the stay isn’t usually very long, but give the school an “A” for originality.
In 2008, the Fighting Illini held a scrimmage at Memorial Stadium after the football team had finished playing the University of Minnesota. Workers laid the court down on the stadium turf in the south end zone, and Midnight Madness began.
Since the football crowd that day was 62,870, the school labeled the event the “World’s Largest Basketball Practice,” a tradition that’s continued since that time on the home football weekend closest to Oct. 15.
The Orangemen have a Midnight Madness Legends Game, and when you’re Syracuse, you bring in the heavyweights: Carmelo Anthony, Pearl Washington, Gerry McNamara, Derrick Coleman, Hakim Warrick, John Wallace and Lawrence Moten have all returned to the Carrier Dome to delight their fans, not to mention the current team.
Tickets to the event are free, but the Carrier Dome sold out the event in 2011.
Former coach Larry Brown christened “Late Night in the Phog” back in 1985 (current KU head coach Bill Self was a graduate assistant on Brown’s staff that season).
Today, the Kansas Jayhawks’ Midnight Madness activities are streamed over the Internet. According to school’s website, it’s “one part scrimmage, one part talent show and two parts shenanigans.” Jayhawks players and coaches take part in comical skits as more than 16,000 cram into Allen Fieldhouse to watch.
“Big Blue Madness,” as it’s known, once attracted 23,312 fans at Rupp Arena in 2006. It still regularly draws more than 22,000 and is getting to be a launching point for adding to Kentucky’s rafters.
In 2011, head coach John Calipari raised a Final Four banner during Midnight Madness; this season, he’ll raise an NCAA championship one.
It’s also one of the biggest recruiting tools the ‘Cats use. In 2011, no fewer than 10 of the nation’s top preps attended Big Blue Madness.
Head coach Tom Izzo loosens up and gets into the Spartan act each year. He’s been a hippie; he’s ridden a Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the court; he’s even arrived in a fighter jet as Maverick from Top Gun.
Though all business when it’s game time, Izzo clearly enjoys engaging loyal Michigan State fans once a year for Madness’ sake.