College Basketball: Schools get early start with Midnight Madness
CHARLESTON, W.Va. ó Kentucky, West Virginia and several other schools plan an early start on Midnight Madness by taking advantage of an NCAA practice rule.
The official opening of practice for the 2008-09 season is Oct. 17, but the NCAA has allowed two hours of team workouts per week since mid-September.
National Association of Basketball Coaches spokesman Rick Leddy said the intent of the rule was for coaches to work on skill development, not to raise the rafters.
But that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
West Virginia’s basketball office decided to ring in the upcoming season with a fan-oriented event Friday night as part of the football team’s homecoming weekend. The football team already has four home games scheduled in a five-week span with a bye weekend Oct. 18.
“We thought this was the best thing for our basketball program and the fans,” WVU basketball spokesman Bryan Messerly said. “It would be hard to ask Mountaineer fans who drive long distances to come five straight weeks to Morgantown.”
The Mountaineers will usher in coach Bob Huggins’ second season with pizza and T-shirt giveaways to fans, a slam-dunk contest, scrimmages and a two-ball competition between the men’s and women’s teams.
While West Virginia typically draws only a few thousand fans for the event, Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena has attracted more than 23,000 fans in each of the last three years.
“Everybody in the country could have done the same thing,” Kentucky basketball spokesman DeWayne Peevy said. “It didn’t cause any problems for us here. If there was a rule in place that prevented us from doing it, we wouldn’t have had a problem in abiding by that.”
In Champaign, Ill., the men’s and women’s basketball teams will head onto a court set up behind one of the end zones Saturday at Memorial Stadium after the conclusion of Illinois’ game with Minnesota.
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