Midnight Madness NCAA D1 basketball event

Midnight Madness: Where Did It Come From & Why is it so Popular?

Many people think that the new basketball season gets underway around Thanksgiving time! Not surprising because this is when you can find some of the high-profile, early-season tournaments happening … However, what you might or might not be surprised to learn is things kick-off much earlier – in October – with Midnight Madness! Midnight Madness happens weeks before the first game of the season and is a seriously big deal party event thrown by the schools who partake. Now, lets dig a little deeper into the when, where and how this crazy basketball event came about.


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THE ORIGIN of Midnight Madness

Head Coach Lefty Driesell of the Maryland Terrapins was the person who began the Midnight Madness tradition. Here’s how it went down:

At 12:03 a.m. on October 15, 1971 Coach Driesell got his team down to the schools football field for a 1.5 mile team run. He invited a small crowd of 3,000 fans to spur the players along so they would perform to the crowd. The early-hours-of-the-morning practice took place at the Byrd Stadium on the University of Maryland campus.

After a successful first Midnight event, Coach Driesell continued the annual midnight practice session throughout his tenure at Maryland. When he became Head Coach at Georgia State University he brought the tradition with him. Little did anyone know, that this small coaching decision would turn into such a huge event that would eventually be broad-casted on ESPN+.

QUESTION: Is Midnight Madness the best sports-related party you’ve ever heard of?


In 1982, the Kentucky Wildcat’s Head Coach, Joe B. Hall was the first to get together with his players and the school to officially promote the celebratory “Midnight Madness” as an “official school event” with invitations send out to the student body and formal entertainment arranged to be a part of the event. The event was held in Memorial Coliseum and as a decent turn out of around 8,500 people!

NOTE: Scout.com estimated that in 2007, approximately 160 of the top blue chip high school basketball recruits in the country were attending a Midnight Madness event.


As we all know, college sports (especially basketball) are at their best when the students and fans are involved. They bring the energy, create a fantastic atmosphere and really cheer on their team. This is what encompasses the Midnight Madness concept. It’s a time to galvanize both the team and fans to establish a positive start for what is hoped to be, a successful championship season. The actual date on which basketball teams celebrate Midnight Madness can vary, but generally most try and stick with the traditional date of a Friday night closest to October 15th.

NOTE: Some of the Midnight Madness events can be found broadcasting live, streaming video on multiple online websites.

If you have tried to find your favorite teams event, you might quickly come to the realization that not all schools announce the details of their Midnight Madness celebration online. However, I did find a few which you can see below if you are interested in watching their celebrations unfold in real time:

INDIANA: Hoosier Hysteria, Friday, October 7 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

DUKE: Countdown to Craziness, Friday, October 21 at 7pm at Fayetteville State

KANSAS: Late Night in the Phog, Friday October 14 at (TBD), Allen Fieldhouse – the Jayhawks’ men’s and women’s teams will hold scrimmages and entertain the fans.

INTERESTING FACT: “Late Night in the Phog” at Kansas, started in 1985 by Larry Brown. Brown is the only coach in basketball history to win both an NCAA national championship with the Kansas Jayhawks, 1988 and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.

KENTUCKY: Big Blue Madness, Friday October 14 at 7pm ET, at Rupp Arena – Tickets will be available at 9 am on Oct. 2. Big Blue Madness is now televised and hosts big time celebrities such as Drake (who performed in 2014).

INTERESTING FACT: Kentucky has sold out Rupp Arena multiple times for the “Big Blue Madness”. In the 2008–2009 Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball season, fans had to camp out in lines for days in advance to get tickets!!

NORTH CAROLINA: Live Action with Carolina Basketball, Friday September 30 at 7:30pm ET

MICHIGAN STATE: Michigan State Madness, Friday October 7 at 9:30pm. ET, at Breslin Center – teams will participate in scrimmages, and will begin the night by signing autographs for the fans, followed by performances by the marching band, drumline, the cheerleaders and dance team.

GONZAGA: Kraziness in the Kennel, Saturday October 8 at 4pm ET, at McCarthey Athletic Center.

TARLETON STATE: Midnight Madness, Thursday September 29, 11pm, at Wisdom Gym – Each side of Wisdom Gym will be assigned a “team” color, either white or purple and there will be 300 shirts for each side for the first fans who fill the stands.



Are you intrigued to know what happens at one of these Midnight Madness events? I am! You can always watch one of this year’s events (see above dates) but here is a quick insight on what you can expect from a Midnight Madness event. It’s a prime time event, for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams – so everyone is there to participate in the celebration. The event is usually held on the schools campus and, depending on the program, they might include the following:

  • Slam dunk contests
  • T-shirts and merch giveaways
  • Intrasquad scrimmages
  • Three-point shooting contests with prizes
  • Professional MCs
  • Celebrity music performances,
  • Dancing
  • And many other festivities to encourage support of the program!

The top teams invite celebrity guests and have alumni take part in entertaining the students and fans. Because Midnight Madness is such a massive event, more and more celebrity acts are hired to attend the event on the various D1 campuses. Its quite the spectacle, sounds fun right!? Some of the teams even offer some special offers such as the first 1,000 to receive a free gift such as t-shirts, posters, autographs, road game vacation packages, and other free merch. Often, you’ll find that there is significant publicity surrounding the event, usually in the form of live broadcasts, mainstream press releases and various online live streams.

NOTE: When the Midnight Madness events are televised live, they are usually done by sports networks such as the Big Ten Network, and have their highlights shown on shows such as ESPN’s SportsCenter. Now, ESPNU extensively covers all events of midnight madness every year.


In 2013, the NCAA ruled that men’s practices could begin two weeks earlier than the traditional date as long as the teams held no more than 30 days of practice in the six weeks prior to the first regular-season game. However, quite a few basketball programs rejected moving the date forward and schools still stick to having their Midnight Madness around October 15th. It’s the tradition after all!


Here you can access the most up-to-date college basketball openings from college coaches looking for players to fill roster spots