October 17, 2001

Darkness On Midnight Madness

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Saturday Oct. 13 at 12:01 a.m., the NCAA opened the floodgates. That was the first moment at which college basketball teams could hold official practices. At that second in arenas across the country, the mania that is the collegiate basketball season began as teams took to the courts urged on by the frenzied cheers of fans and students. The event is known as Midnight Madness.

Midnight Madness is the annual festival of basketball insanity to hype the teams and help set the tone for the season to come. It gives coaches and players the earliest start possible, and it gives the fans a chance to show their spirit and catch a sneak peek at their team.

The festivities often include intersquad scrimmages, shooting contests, games and prizes ranging from simple gift certificates to the extravagant package of free books, room and board given to a Cincinnati student after he hit a half court shot in 1994.

Cornell participated in the tradition in 2000 with events that included a student dunk contest and a car giveaway. However, this year Newman Arena was quiet for the start of the basketball season this past Saturday.

The lack of celebration wasn’t the result of anything sinister though. According to men’s basketball head coach Steve Donahue, the reason is quite simple. The athletic department’s new marketing director, Jeff Hall, was hired too late to properly put the event together.

Donahue said he enjoys Midnight Madness though, and despite sparse attendance last year, he said it will very likely return next year.

Freshman Chris Vandenberg looks forward to the event in the future.

“It’s a great way for the fans to see what’s going to happen [with the team],” he said. “We could turn Cornell into a basketball school.”

Without the presence of fans or the media, the team did hold its first practice of the season Saturday morning at 8 a.m. It plays its inaugural game Nov. 16 at Canisius.

“I’m real pleased with the level of effort put out in practice so far,” Donahue said.

He points to new faces, more enthusiasm and “taller guys” as signs of the Red’s program on the rise. The team is working hard to make the Midnight Madness celebration a must see event in years to come. It’s one more step towards the rise of Cornell’s basketball program.

Archived article by Matt James