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Midnight Madness

It's about time

Midnight Madness has emerged as college hoops' traditional tip-off

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Posted: Monday October 19, 1998 04:25 PM

  College hoops fans everywhere will get an early taste of the madness this month

By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI

NEW YORK (CNN/SI) -- Lefty Driesell has won nearly 700 games in 36 seasons, but his true coaching legacy is a moment in time.

The moment came 28 years ago, as the clock struck midnight on October 15, 1970. Driesell, then the coach at Maryland, came up with an attention-getting ploy: He started practice at the earliest possible time allowed under NCAA rules. As the Terps ran laps in near-darkness in Cole Field House, Midnight Madness was born.

Other coaches quickly followed Lefty's lead.

Die-hard fans loved it. The late start appealed to students, who brought a frat-party feel to the event. The benchmark of a program's passion soon became attendance at this first official practice. Today, the event is the ultimate pep rally and team promotion -- a spectacle for the Age of Television.

Midnight Madness has evolved into a tradition shared by hoops fans nationwide. This year as the calendar flips from Friday, October 16 to Saturday, more than one-third of all Division I schools -- from UCLA to Cal Lutheran -- will whistle in practice in the wee hours.

Midnight Madness is a time for schools to entertain recruits as well as fans. Last October, Tayshaun Prince, a highly regarded prep shooting guard from Los Angeles, spent the night in Lexington, Kentucky, surrounded by Kentucky faithful. On October 17, he'll run through Rupp Arena as a UK freshman. Don't try to find tickets, though; the event sold out weeks ago.

Midnight Madness is also a time for men's and women's teams to take the floor together. Last season, Tennessee introduced Midnight Madness on its campus with a co-ed scrimmage. The Lady Vols, who would become national champs in April, more than held their own.

And even in the adulterated world of big-time, big-money college basketball, Midnight Madness is a time for dreaming. At the University of Texas, kids can participate in the "Midnight Mania" sleep-over: meeting players, shooting hoops, then having a giant slumber party at the UT Recreation Center.

Or take the "Tuition Shot," a tradition at several schools. One student, one half-court shot. If it goes, the shooter is figuratively and literally "money." In 1994, on live television from Cincinnati, Cory Clouse drained the shot, sending the crowd and viewers everywhere into a frenzy, and earning himself a year's tuition, room and board.

In the new season's opening minutes, even the lowliest teams entertain the grandiose hopes that only a clean slate can provide. So permit a revision of college basketball's fairy-tale theme: If the Final Four is about finding a glass slipper that fits, and if Selection Sunday is about getting sized for the slipper, then when the clock strikes midnight on October 17, future Cinderellas all run for the shoe store.  

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Keep up with the oral commitments from the nation's top recruits!
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