Midnight Madness signals arrival of college basketball

The Associated Press

Midnight Madness no longer lives up to its name. Sure, some of college basketball’s opening night celebrations are chances for crowds to go crazy indoors for the first time since Connecticut won the national championship in April.

The big difference is timing. Most of the campus events start well before midnight. Heck, almost all of them end before the local newscasts even begin.

This all began with Lefty Driesell at Maryland 41 years ago. He just wanted to get an advantage over other schools so he set practice for 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 15, the earliest date any team could practice. He had the players run a mile outside Cole Field House.

He never expected this to become an annual rite televised by ESPN on two of its networks for four hours, a time frame long enough to at least have some people watching at midnight.

Some of the events, which can include everything from scrimmages to skill and dunk contests and team skits, are now staples come this time of year.

  • Kansas will host “Late Night in the Phog” for the 27th straight year.
  • Kentucky will stage “Big Blue Madness,” an event that is free but had hopeful fans getting on line at 7 a.m. on Sept. 28, three days before the tickets were distributed. There will be a full house at 23,000-seat Rupp Arena.
  • ”Hoosier Hysteria” will happen again at Indiana.
  • "Maryland Madness" will have an alumni game that will feature members of the 2002 national championship team.
  • Duke will have its third annual “Countdown to Craziness.”
  • Baylor will have “Moonlight Madness” and the first 500 fans will receive glow-in-the-dark T-shirts and a free hamburger.

The only trouble with all of these doings is that they will be over well before midnight. One school, however, is sticking to the clock.

Texas A&M will host “Maroon Madness,” which will be held in conjunction with Midnight Yell Practice at Kyle Field, a football stadium. The gates don’t even open until 10:30 p.m. and the action gets under way at 11:45 p.m., as close as any program comes to starting when the name says it should.

“Maroon Madness” has the potential to be the largest-attended preseason college basketball event in the country. It has been held at Kyle Field for five of the last six seasons and Texas A&M set the unofficial record at a preseason basketball tip-off event when more than 28,000 fans attended in 2007.

ESPNU Midnight Madness will run for the sixth year with more schools than ever, including Connecticut, Louisville, North Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke and Texas A&M. Events at other schools will be on ESPN3.