After five years of hiatus at Yale, a tradition for basketball teams across the country will be reinstated here in New Haven.
Midnight Madness, a pep rally-like event that marks the official beginning of basketball season, will kick off at 11:00 p.m. this Friday at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Amidst much anticipation from both the men’s and women’s teams, as well as athletic administrators, the event will feature the official unveiling of the teams, free T-shirts and other prizes for participants, and a chance to win a spring break vacation package for two in a drawing.
In accordance with NCAA rules, no college basketball team may officially practice before Oct. 15, and most teams hold their first practice on the first Saturday after that date. Midnight Madness thus marks the first time teams are allowed to practice.
Team members and representatives from Sports Publicity and Sports Marketing expressed optimism that the event will drum up enthusiasm about the basketball programs.
Men’s basketball captain Ross Morin ’09 said both teams actively advocated for the event.
“We were pushing for it because it’s been successful at so many other schools,” he said. “The coaches kind of gave in and decided to have it.”
Guard Porter Braswell ’11 said the same, adding that it was an established tradition across the country.
“In some colleges, there are [crowds] of 20,000 people,” he said. “It’s famous throughout the country.”
Midnight Madness is prominent at large state schools, but coaches and team members said they were unaware of its success within the Ivy League. However, they cited Yale’s successes with the event prior to 2002.
Bob Tuppola, who is largely responsible for the event through Yale’s Sports Marketing office, said the event was discontinued after 2002 because attendance wound down after it was held over consecutive years.
“Well, it was the kind of the thing you can’t do every year,” he said. “You want to pick your spots when you think your team will get a real drive, especially with Stanford coming in for the first game.”
The Bulldogs will start their season taking on the Cardinals at home Nov. 14.
Elsewhere around the country, it seems that enthusiasm and knowledge of Midnight Madness varies between schools and among students.
Laurance Lee, a junior at UCLA, said the Bruins’ Midnight Madness is generally downplayed.
“Our Midnight Madness is closed doors, no spectators,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of hype because it symbolizes the start of the season.”
Duke freshman Jordan Stone said he had never heard of the event, despite the craze over the Blue Devils’ basketball program and head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s legendary status on campus.
“I’m kind of embarrassed that I haven’t heard of it,” he said. “Do you mean March Madness?”
Similarly, many students at Yale interviewed by the News were confused about the difference between March Madness and Midnight Madness. A majority said they were unaware of the upcoming event.
Mike Jones ’12, one of the few students who had heard of Yale’s Midnight Madness, said he was unsure as to what the event will entail.
“I think it’s something happening on Saturday night for the basketball team,” he said.
Despite apparent low awareness among the general student body, Pat O’Neill of Yale’s Sports Marketing said he has high expectations for this weekend’s turnout based on attendance from previous years. He said this year’s event has been well-publicized, and that there are still a few days left to spread the word.
“We’ve circulated the idea around, and my goal is to get 500–1,000 students there if we could,” he said. “It’s kind of a pep rally combined with … anticipation for a new season.”
Women’s head coach Chris Gobrecht said the event marks an important turning point for the teams.
“I don’t think people realize that we’re not allowed to practice until a certain date,” she said. “There’s a difference in the life of a basketball player prior to the date.”
She added that she was confident that the event will be well attended.
“Yalies love to stay up at night [so] this is right up their alley,” Gobrecht said.
Men’s head coach James Jones said he felt Midnight Madness will definitely raise the team’s morale and contribute to their season.
“I always have high expectations; we want to realize our potential,” he said. “I guess if we have great fan support, it will help us be successful.”
Women’s basketball captain Jamie Van Horne ’09 said she is excited about starting the new season. Because Midnight Madness has been a tradition in college basketball for a long time, Van Horne said she is hopeful about a good turnout this weekend.
“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I hope that the student body will come out and support us.”
Lights at Lee Amphitheater will promptly go off at 11:59 p.m. Friday, when the basketball teams will be officially introduced. The event will finish with a slam dunk contest among players of the men’s team and a three-point shooting contest among players of the women’s team.
The women will play Bucknell on Nov. 18, four days after their counterparts face Stanford.