Midnight Madness–Time to cater to the fans

This weekend, some of the Madness of college basketball began with the different celebrations a little early by Kentucky, Illinois, West Virginia and a few other schools.  Midnight Madness, as it is named, was coined due to the fact that practice could not start until Midnight on a particular day and schools would use that to kickoff the season’s first practice of the year with fanfare and excitement.  To me Midnight Madness celebrations are for the fans and for recruits.  I think it even helps the current team to get pumped to start practices.   Things have changed over the years as the start of practices were moved back to 7PM the night before the official start day of practices due to various reasons (mainly to be able to have Midnight Madness celebrations when most of the fanbase is awake.)  Then this year, there was a rule in place that between September 15th and October 17th,  teams were allowed to have workouts or “practice” with coaches for up to 2 hours per week.  The schools mentioned above took advantage of this to have their Midnight Madness a week earlier and use their 2 hours of practice then.  Now some other coaches and schools are complaining that it is not fair for them to take advantage of this “practice time” like that and as a result this sort of thing probably won’t last.

So now let’s take Creighton.  Their “Midnight Madness” is an open house at the Qwest Center on October 28th.  Before the Qwest Center, I don’t even know if there was an open house.  It was probably setup so you would just wait until the Exhibition games to see the Jays in action.  5 seasons ago when they moved into the Qwest Center, it was a good idea to have an open house.  After a successful season the year before and a brand new facility, the fan base was just starting to swell and new or old fans came out to see the new place, see the team practice and consider buying season tickets.  Well, in my mind, the open house has lived out it’s existence. Now only a few hundred to a thousand people come out to the open house and there are fewer season tickets to be had.

The regular attendance from the late days at the Civic Auditorium has now almost tripled.  Season tickets have increased significantly with over 13,500 season tickets sold.  Expectations have started to grow over the past 3 or 4 seasons for sure and there are growing numbers of people paying attention to Bluejay basketball during the offseason.  11 straight post-season appearances.  Now is a great time to bring Midnight Madness to Creighton and give back to the fans that have helped build this excitement.

Coach Altman is not a stranger to Midnight Madness.  When he was at Kansas State, they held Midnight Madness each year.  Who can forget 1992 when Larry “Bud” Melman was the headliner of that year’s celebration:

MIDNIGHT MADNESS: Kansas State plans special activities Saturday night at Bramlage Coliseum to usher in the 12:01 a.m. Sunday start of basketball practice. Larry “Bud” Melman of David Letterman fame is the headliner of the pre-practice activities. “His personality and mine are a lot alike,” Coach Dana Altman said. “We’re both boring, don’t say much and when we do, it sounds awkward. I don’t know what kind of performer Larry~ `Bud’ is. He can go out there and walk around a little bit. ” Other activities include an alumni game and a three-point shooting contest between K-State President Jon Wefald and Athletic Director Milt Richards.

Even Coach Altman’s former school Marshall had a Midnight Madness this past weekend.

Now it is my understanding that there was one season where one of the better players on the K-State team got hurt and after that, Coach Altman has shied away from “Midnight Madness”  But, in reality, anyone can get hurt anywhere, anytime.  Someone might put in a bad contact in their eye, get pushed over by an SIU player and break a kneecap, or just not even get a ride to the game!  There are endless things that can happen.  I know the team has a lot to learn and do before and during the season, but to have one practice time where the fans can come out and know what they are getting excited about can pay dividends in the long run.

One of the criticisms of the new Creighton fanbase is that they are there for a social event or because beer is served.  Have Midnight Madness one year and see what can happen:

  1. You get the Creighton students there for a party atmosphere
  2. You get your die hards and families to show up.
  3. You get a chance to show off the Qwest Center and how they are good at putting on a show
  4. The players get a chance to just let loose before the season begins and give the fans a taste of what they could see during the season.
  5. With the increased level of recruiting these last few years-Get some recruits to attend and see what the environment could be like.

I think you can get the fans to become more involved and pay attention to the game a little more when they have more invested into what the players are doing and what they can do.  Who wouldn’t like to see some amazing dunks from P’Allen or the long distance 3-balls from Booker?  Having people pay attention to what the players can do creates anticipation from the fans of what could happen.  Like I said before, Midnight Madness is a bit of a Promotional/Marketing tool.  However, having the fan support to supplement everything else that the program is doing is a great asset to have.  With millions of dollars every year contributed by the fan base to support these programs, this is a small thing to do in order to create a louder Qwest Center, even more support by the fans and a recruiting tool that other schools already take advantage of.

I mean really, what is left for the fans to get pumped up for the season?  Ticket prices continue to increase.  It used to be Exhibition games would be a chance to see what the teams could look like and get a few exciting highlight reel things (like the Johnny Matthies to Jeff Day off the backboard dunk a couple years ago).  Now those are being limited to one or none (like Colorado) opting instead to play closed door scrimmages.  Even Creighton is only playing one exhibition game this year so they can play Iowa St. in a closed door scrimmage the week before.

Around the Valley, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, and Wichita St. appear to be the only schools doing some sort of “Madness” celebrations for the fans.  Creighton should be doing one too.

Obviously, nothing is going to happen this year, but I suggest next year that something different happens.  At least try it once, promote it and see what happens.  I think we would all be surprised on how it would turn out.

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