Midnight Madness: A Time for Celebration or More Exploitation

Updated: October 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. (BASN)-—I watched several of the midnight madness events on ESPN like so  many basketball fans and I could not believe what midnight madness has become.  I must admit, I enjoyed the hype which all the institutions provided the audience.  Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse, Pittsburgh  and North Carolina to name a few.


Midnight practice was originally established by Maryland Terrapins head coach Lefty Driesell.  He started the tradition at 12:03 a.m. on October 15, 1971 with a 1.5 mile run.  It is recorded that 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.  Clearly Kentucky has taken Midnight Madness to a whole different level.  Kentucky packaged the event in a way which marketed the university to all.  Despite Kentucky’s one and done attraction which many student athletes dream of having, this event showcased one of the experiences you will have as a non student athlete if you are thinking about attending Kentucky.


I watched the events in three complete different mind sets all at once. One, as a parent with three boys of my own that love to play basketball.  Two, as a basketball fan and finally as a former African American D1 athlete.


As a basketball fan I enjoyed the celebration of traditions, teams, the honoring of former players and coaches.  The atmosphere and production in some of the venues mirrored  a mini concert.  It was truly a basketball fans ultimate night out, I can only imagine what the fraternities had planned after the event concluded.


As a parent, Wow, is this what big time basketball has come to?  My 12 year old son returned home after attending a friends Bar Mitzvah and came in just as the Kentucky teams were being introduced.  I asked him, what do you think? He said oh, I like it!  He continued the music, dancing, the crowd, the fact that it showed the complete tradition of Kentucky basketball was all appealing to him.  As the introductions continued he asked what are these guys majoring in?  I said, I don’t know but thats a Good question!


As an African American former D1 athlete, I was simply embarrassed by some of the dancing and felt this part of the production could not have been rehearsed or discussed with institution officials.  Gang signs thrown up by athletes, the reenactment of what usually takes place in a gents club by a women’s basketball team was all a bit much for me to swallow.  The act of shaking your backside and other players making it rain, is not something I would have expected from any athlete particularly on television by female athletes.  One could argue after all it was midnight but is this really what basketball is all about?  It is important to note that these acts were not performed by any of the Kentucky players.


I truly believe players dancing (celebrating) was a sign of all the hard work put in over the years to achieve the opportunity of obtaining a scholarship to play on the D1 level.  Athletes dedicate years to AAU basketball while maintaining the gpa to earn a scholarship and they are well within their right to celebrate and if dancing is the way they choose to do so, then so be it.


However, I just felt the level of exploitation of these athletes was being pushed.  We all understand big time college athletics exploitation exist and will continue to exist until we figure out a fair way to compensate players, ( a topic I addressed in a previous article) but for now its just a matter of how much exploitation is occurring.  These institutions were not introducing their student athletes they were introducing their Athletes.  During introductions I did not hear gpa achieved, majors, hobbies or interest.  This event was all about the Athlete again, not the student athlete.  As announcers discussed all-conference players, all tournament players and the like.  Its ridiculous to say college athletes walk around with a stench of entitlement but then we host a Midnight party in their honor and make them the center of attention.


I never understood what the big deal was in practicing at midnight.  I mean, really, is a 13 hour head start going to make a difference in winning and losing?  While I attended Indiana University Bob Knight never held Midnight Madness. The only time our team practiced at midnight would have been after a bad game but this was a punishment, not for enjoyment.   If you know anything about Bob Knight the last thing you would see would be dancing.


In the future if schools are going to conduct Midnight Madness it might be useful to include the Student aspect in the celebration.  Finally, Institutions should determine what type of dancing if any is acceptable or at least have a better understanding of the culture they are working with. The perception of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus or the Funny Little Darkies, should not be associated with Student Athletes.



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