Ever Wonder: How Midnight Madness got its start at the University of Maryland

Ever Wonder: How Midnight Madness got its start at the University of Maryland

For most college basketball programs across the country, Midnight Madness has become a major tradition. The late-night spectacle filled with basketball and showmanship signifies the start of a new season. 

But, how did Midnight Madness come to be? It turns out its humble beginnings took place at the University of Maryland.

In 1971, legendary head coach Lefty Driesell had been at the helm of the Terps basketball squad for two seasons. Helping the program reach a new prestige in his first couple of years, Driesell wanted to take Maryland to the next level and show the rest of college basketball they were legit contenders.

His idea: have his team be the first ones to practice on the season by participating in an event at midnight on the earliest possible date. This way, in Driesell's eyes, the Terps would the first team on the court at the beginning and the last one on it at the end when they held the National Championship trophy.

“This was Lefty’s way of saying, ‘Hey world, Maryland is here now. We got a great team and I’m going to be the first team in America to practice,'" Tom McMillen, who was a member of the 1971 team, said.

Besides sending a message to other programs, Driesell also used Midnight Madness as a way to drum up school spirit. If Maryland was going to become one of the top schools in the nation and a respected team, they needed fans to get involved and stay committed.

“Getting the campus to rally behind the basketball team," Tony Massenburg, who played under Driesell in 1985, said. “You don’t need a reason to get a bunch of college students to stay up until midnight."

The first Midnight Madness took place on October 15, 1971, at 12:03 a.m. Unlike a majority of the nights in modern times, the Maryland team wasn't in a gym, but rather out at Byrd Stadium running a mile. Still, the event got the attention of locals and a national audience. 

“It really set off a firestorm across the country," McMillen said.

In the third installment of Midnight Madness, Driesell had Maryland participate in a scrimmage open to the public, more in line with what is seen across the country now. It was that event that turned Midnight Madness into the popular spectacle it is today.

“The third year we ended up having a scrimmage. That’s really what launched midnight madness," McMillen said.

What began as Driesell's idea has transformed into a common night shared among campuses across the country. Every year Midnight Madness gets bigger, with scrimmages only being part of the action. Wild introductions, skits and more theatrics have turned the first practice of the season into much more than that.

Maryland still participates and even paid homage to the original Midnight Madness in 2018. In honor of the program's 100th season and Driesell's introduction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Midnight Mile made its return. 

While the night continues to grow in size, the original meaning still holds true. Driesell held Midnight Madness as a way to showcase Maryland and prove it was the best place to be. Coaches across the country are doing the same, trying to show that their campus is the place to be.

“What it’s become is a recruiting tool," Massenburg said. "It’s the means to sort of showcase your program.”

What began in College Park has turned into one of college basketball's best traditions. Despite Driesell being the creator, the start of Midnight Madness is sometimes relatively unknown by the public. If the head coach had known how big it would become back in 1971, that may have been different. 

“I tell Lefty my only regret is that you didn’t copyright Midnight Madness because it was a very valuable asset and literally just an idea he came up with just to be first," McMillen said. 

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Maryland's Serrel Smith Jr. is transferring, taking another depth hit

Maryland's Serrel Smith Jr. is transferring, taking another depth hit

Maryland sophomore guard Serrel Smith Jr. will transfer the team announced on Tuesday. Without him, the Terps have completely lost more guard depth from last season. 

Smith played in 27 games last season off of the bench. In only eight minutes of action a game, he scored 40 points total on 56 shot attempts. 

He will have to sit a year unless the 6-foot-4 guard obtains a waiver. Smith will have two years left of eligibility left. 

"I want to thank Maryland and Coach Turgeon for these past two years - they've been nothing but amazing," Smith said in a school release. "My time at Maryland was filled with memories and relationships that I will always cherish! After careful consideration, I have decided to enter my name into the NCAA transfer portal and explore my options."

The Terps were already extremely thin at the point guard position before the announcement of Smith's decision to transfer. As a four-year starter, Cowan held the point guard position down for several seasons without much need for depth on the bench. Even in a limited capacity, Smith did not show that he could rise to be a starter next season. 

Eric Ayala ran some sets last year at the point and is likely going to be the starter next season. Primarily, he has been the two-guard in his two years with Maryland. Ayala as the point guard will allow Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins to be on the floor at the same time. 

Point guard was a position that Turgeon and his staff were heavily targeting in the grad transfer market. In each instance, they missed out on bringing one to College Park.

Two incoming freshmen, Aquon Smart and Marcus Dockery, who signed their letter of intent could also provide some relief at the position according to Verbal Commits. Neither should be expected to rise to be a starter in their first year.

Smith is the third Terp to transfer this offseason. The fifth since the start of the 2019-20 season. 

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Delaying the one-time transfer waiver is not what Maryland men's basketball needed to hear

Delaying the one-time transfer waiver is not what Maryland men's basketball needed to hear

One of the biggest discussed pieces of legislation in the NCAA is the proposal of a one-time transfer waiver for football, baseball and men's and women's basketball.

On Wednesday the NCAA announced that it will not consider the rule change for the upcoming year but rather table the discussion until January.

For Maryland's men's basketball team, the decision is less than ideal. Granting non-grad transfers immediate eligibility for their first change of schools would greatly help next year's roster. 

With the waiver, Boston College transfer Jarius Hamilton would have been able to play in 2020-21 for the Terps. Needing every ounce of sustainable offense as possible, he would have presented an additional scoring option at the wing. It's a position that the team is more than set with, but could serve a dual purpose as a wing scorer and defensive depth in the post. 

But more importantly, this limits Maryland's potential gains in the transfer portal for the upcoming season. Most of the big names have already committed to new schools, but there are still players available and looking for a home.

The team targeted experienced point guards earlier in the offseason to go with their incoming freshman. They could also use another big-man to provide relief. Both needs are big reasons they were super aggressive for graduate transfers.

Maryland's only grad addition was Alabama's Galin Smith who does not have experience as a regular starter. 

Of course, head coach Mark Turgeon and his staff could not operate their offseason plan assuming the one-time waiver was going to be approved. There were too many moving parts to put all their eggs in one basket. It does limit, though, the options for Maryland to find significant help to immediately improve their outlook for next year.

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