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Midnight Madness (basketball)
20081017 Kansas Midnight Madness lines.jpg
Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball fans wait to attend a Midnight Madness celebration to raise NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship banners to the rafters to celebrate their 2008 tournament victory.
Location(s) Individual schools
Years active 1929–present
Date(s) October 16, 2009 (most recent)
October ??, 2010 (upcoming)
Genre Athletic exhibition and celebration

Midnight Madness is an annual event on college campuses that celebrates the first day in mid-October that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) permits formal basketball practices each college basketball season. In some cases, the name has literal meaning since an event is scheduled starting at 12:00 a.m. at the very first moment that is allowed. Some other campuses have sunrise practice session events on the opening day of the season, while others have theirs during prime time. The event has become both a form of boosterism and recruiting. In some cases, the teams are both celebrating the potential of a new team and the success of the previous season's teams. Schools sometimes schedule banner raising events in conjunction with the event. In 2009, it occurred on October 16.

At some schools, both the men's and women's teams celebrate the beginning of the regular season. In 2008, there was controversy over some schools' applications to host public practice sessions in association with the "Offseason Workout Rule" before regular practice sessions were to be permitted.



A mini-trampoline-aided dunk was part of the 2006 University of South Carolina Upstate festivities.

Lefty Driesell, Maryland Terrapins men's basketball head coach, started the tradition in 1970 or 1971 with an unofficial session that was attended by 3,000 fans at the University of Maryland's football stadium, Byrd Stadium.[1][2] Every year thereafter until 2008, he celebrated the first minute that NCAA-sanctioned regular basketball practices may occur at the stroke of midnight with a basketball practice event, but in 2008 the event was delayed until sunrise.[2] In 1982, the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team began to officially promote a celebration dubbed "Midnight Madness" as a school event with formal entertainment acts and an invited student audience. Another of the more famous events is "Late Night in the Phog" at Kansas, which was started in 1985 by Larry Brown and is now broadcast in live streaming video via the Internet.[3] The event has caught on on most campuses; various programs have given away T-shirts and allowed players do stunt dunks and half court shots.[1] Some schools schedule intrasquad scrimmages, three-point shooting contests and/or slam dunk contests. The event is often a co-ed event, in which both the men's and women's team participate in the celebration, especially at schools like the University of Connecticut, where the men's and women's teams have a combined eight championships.[4] estimated that in 2007, approximately 160 of the top blue chip high school basketball recruits in the country were attending a Midnight Madness event during the weekend that opens the basketball season.[5]


2008 Michigan State Spartans basketball Midnight Madness
Left: Player introductions; Center: Tom Izzo and family in costume; Right: Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans' mascot

In the twenty-first century, most basketball programs from large Division I schools have planned a pep rally with MC's, music, dancing and other festivities to encourage support of the program. Celebrity guests and alumni participate in entertaining the students. Often, there is significant publicity surrounding the event, which may include televised broadcasts, published press releases and various new media exposure.[6] Some of the more legendary events to have occurred during such events include coach participation, such as Michigan State Spartans men's basketball coach Tom Izzo riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the court and Florida Gators men's basketball coach Billy Donovan rising out of a coffin.[1] Although signing week, when top recruits sign letters of intent that commit them to specific schools, does not occur until November,[7] blue chip high school recruits are sometimes welcomed at these events even in their junior years.[6] Usually a prescribed number of fans (such as the first 1000) receive a gifts such as t-shirts, posters, autographs, road game vacation packages, and other free paraphernalia.[6] At many such events, a student is chosen for a half court shot giveaway.[6] Sometimes the events are televised live by sports networks such as the Big Ten Network, and other times highlights are shown on highlight shows such as ESPN's SportsCenter.[1] ESPNU has begun extensive yearly coverage of midnight madness events and in 2008 televised events at Davidson College, the University of Kansas, Georgetown University, Gonzaga University and Indiana University.[1][8] The events have been reported for years in print media such as newspapers, magazines and the internet.[9] Although Midnight Madness has become a prime time event for many premier basketball programs, some schools have continued the tradition of having their first practice at 12:00 on the first day regular practice is allowed.[10][11]

2008 Kansas Jayhawks Late Night in the Phog at the "Phog" Allen Fieldhouse
Left: Players celebrate with a dance routine.; Right: fans celebrate with thundersticks.
Kyle Macy was among the celebrity participants at the 2006 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball opening night celebration

As of 2006, the University of Kentucky held the record for attendance at this type of sports rally with an attendance of 23,312 at Rupp Arena.[4] Kentucky has sold out Rupp Arena multiple times for what they call "Big Blue Madness" and in the 2008–09 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball season fans had to camp out in lines for days in advance to obtain tickets.[12]

One celebratory function of the evening is often to raise NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship or Final Four banners to the rafters in an official ceremony. In 2008, both 2008 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament finalists, the Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball and Memphis Tigers men's basketball teams, did so during their respective Midnight Madness event.[13][14] The October 16, 2009 celebrations occurred on many campuses and a sampling were aired on the ESPN family of networks.[15] Five Big Ten Conference schools celebrated Midnight Madness.[16]


In 2008, some teams attempted to host Midnight Madness in association with special early restricted practices instead of the first day of regular practices. These universities felt that since their football teams had home games the week before the opening date of formal practices, which had become the traditional Midnight Madness date, they would be better off holding Midnight Madness on the weekend before. In 2008, teams were allowed to practice two hours per week between September 15 and October 17 under what is known as the "Offseason Workout Rule,"[12] and at least four notable public "practice" session (by Illinois, Kentucky, Marshall and West Virginia) were held during these weekly practices before daily practices were permitted.[17] At the University of Illinois, the Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball and women's basketball teams hosted scrimmages at Memorial Stadium after an October 11 game between the Illinois Fighting Illini football team and the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.[18] Since the attendance for the football game was 62,870,[19] this event was described as the "World's Largest Basketball Practice". Charlie Zegers reports that the practice session events occurred both at halftime and after the game.[20]

2006 Florida Gator Midnight Madness celebration
Left: Corey Brewer dunk exhibition; Right: Sha Brooks and Joakim Noah co-ed 3-point shootout

Kentucky was one of the schools that held their public practice event a week early in part because they could lure more recruiting prospects during a week when most other programs were not hosting similar events.[12] The National Association of Basketball Coaches asked the Southeastern Conference to force Kentucky to adhere to the traditionally scheduled practice to no avail.[12] They then belatedly petitioned the NCAA to legislate conformity unsuccessfully.[12] Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie had contacted the Kentucky's compliance office, the SEC and the NCAA to ensure that no rules were being violated.[12]

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, had also received permission for the early practice festivities from the NCAA.[18] He had proposed having a September 13 session in association with a home football game against University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The date with the Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns would have in all likelihood been a more favorable day in terms of the climate, but this date preceded even the Offseason Workout Rule dates.[17] It is anticipated that in the future, public basketball practices linked to the Offseason Workout Rule will be banned.[18] Illinois claimed that their date change was not intended to give it a recruiting advantage in terms of scheduling conflicts.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Pucin, Diane (2008-10-17). "No 'Midnight Madness' for UCLA, USC basketball teams". Los Angeles Times.,0,3319514.story. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  2. ^ a b Rovell, Darren (2007-10-13). "Lefty's midnight run started all the Madness". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  3. ^ "Kansas Fans Can Witness". Official Athletics Website of the University of Kansas. CBS Interactive. 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2008-12-03.  
  4. ^ a b "Champs take court for Midnight Madness: Florida enjoyed last year’s title, but has turned all focus to this season". NBC Universal. 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  5. ^ Telep, Dave and Evan Daniels (2007-10-12). "On Campus: Midnight Madness". and Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  6. ^ a b c d "Midnight Madness preview". Skwara, Andrew. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  7. ^ "Signing Dates: For Prospective Student-Athletes Enrolling in the 2009-2010 Academic Year". National Letter of Intent. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  8. ^ "Midnight Madness On ESPNU Coming To Gonzaga: Bulldogs one of five schools featured in Oct. 17 program". The Official Athletic Site of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. CBS Interactive. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2008-12-03.  
  9. ^ "'Let's get ready to repeat': Kentucky treats crowd to crazy sneak preview". CNN/SI. 1998-10-19. Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  10. ^ "University of New Haven Midnight Madness 2007-08 On Sunday, October 14". University of New Haven, Athletic Media Relations. 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2008-12-05.  
  11. ^ "OVU Midnight Madness Basketball Set for Oct. 14". Ohio Valley University. Retrieved 2008-12-05.  
  12. ^ a b c d e f DeCourcy, Mike (2008-10-09). "Kentucky's Madness change is no big deal: Coaches board acting ridiculous to get all up in arms about Gillispie's move". NBC Universal. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  13. ^ "Tigers raise banner at Memphis Madness". Knoxville News Sentinel. The E.W. Scripps Co.. 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  14. ^ Stell, Jeff (2008-10-18). "Catching up with Harrison Barnes". Ames Tribune. Iowa Newspapers, Inc.. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  15. ^ "ESPNU Going Mad for Midnight Madness; Nine Schools to be Featured in Four-Hour Special". ESPN. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  16. ^ "Five teams host Midnight Madness on Friday". Big Ten Network. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  17. ^ a b Katz, Andy (2008-09-09). "UK celebrates Midnight Madness a week early". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  18. ^ a b c d "Illini hosts largest outdoor hoops practice: Men's, women's teams play on a portable court at football stadium". NBC Universal. 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  19. ^ "Minnesota 27, Illinois 20". ESPN Internet Ventures. 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  20. ^ Zegers, Charlie. "The World's Biggest Basketball Practice". Retrieved 2008-12-01.  


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