Monday, October 1, 2012

Midnight Madness: From A Late-Night Run to Entertainment Spectacle

Kansas coach Bill Self rode into Allen Fieldhouse on a Crimson and Blue motorcycle for the 2011 "Late Night at the Phog." (

It's hard to believe it all started with a run.

The spectacle today has evolved into packed college arenas two weeks before the start of the season watching their team dance and act before practicing what they do best:  basketball.

Most call it "Midnight Madness." Some personalized the term Duke calls their event "Countdown to Craziness" and Kansas goes with "Late Night at the Phog" but no matter what campus or name it goes by, it is a highly anticipated show that kicks off official practices. It gives coaches and players a chance to show off a side of them rarely seen by the public.

Yet 42 years ago, the tradition was born at the University of Maryland when coach Lefty Driesell made his team run 1.5 miles around the football stadium track at midnight. There was less fun involved and more work when the tradition began, making it difficult to predict that the event would sweep across the nation and transform more into a Hollywood awards show than a preseason practice.

The events begin earlier in the night now, but the fun and excitement of fans getting acquainted with  that season's team has not diminished. Before the rise of the Internet and YouTube, the lore of player X dressing up like (insert funny costume) and dancing like (insert popular artist of the time whose whereabouts are now unknown) made for great stories that lived on long after the player left campus.

If you can't wait in line for hours before to get a ticket on Oct. 12, ESPN has the next best thing. ESPNU and ESPN3 will have live coverage of 13 events from some of the top programs in the country, including Indiana, Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina and Kansas. It's not the same as seeing it live, but it does show how large the show has become.

Midnight Madness is a celebration of a new season and for players and coaches to have some fun before the seriousness of the season sets in. Yet it all started with a run.

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